ResponseSource Blog

Nine tips for responding to journalist enquiries

By Jamie McCandlish

14th February 2013

Category: How to...

To see a client’s comments in print or online is one of the main goals of PR professionals and can be the conclusion of a long pitch process or as a result of a quick response to a journalist’s enquiry.

The ResponseSource Journalist Enquiry Service is a great way to find out what journalists are working on. However, with other PR professionals trying to secure the same coverage for their clients, how do you ensure that your responses are the ones that are used? Here are a few ideas to help make sure that your replies land at the top of the pile.

1. Respond promptly. A quick email with a short but relevant answer sent within the hour will work better than an in-depth answer that has taken a couple of hours to craft. Being early sometimes beats being brilliant and late to the party.

2. Be relevant. Read the request fully and provide relevant information. Do not try to pitch something different to what the journalist is asking for unless you can clearly explain a connection. Irrelevant responses are the most common complaint from journalists.

3. Stop buzzing. Don’t respond with buzzwords or acronyms, and don’t use technical jargon unless you explain it succinctly. Avoid too much ‘chat’. Lead with the most relevant information first, then adding details or supporting points.

4. Answer the question. If a journalist is looking for information for an article then give it to them on a platter. If they have to search through a press release or other document then you’re increasing the amount of work that they have to do and reducing the likelihood of your information being used.

5. Be unique. If you think that the majority of responses to an enquiry are going to be the same, try something new – as long as it’s still relevant to the request. Identify what makes your message different and deliver your point in a confident way.

6. Who are you? Responding to an enquiry shouldn’t be treated like a sales call, but don’t be overly casual either. Your objective is to tell a story about your company or brand so establish your credentials as well as answering the journalist’s questions.

7. Smart but not boring. Using a couple of compelling statistics, a piece of research or other facts to underscore your point can lead to some great coverage. However, make sure to use them wisely and sparingly. You don’t want to bury the message with stats.

8. Be prepared. Once you have sent your response to the journalist make sure that you have any extra information prepared. If you are providing an expert opinion then make sure that your spokesperson is available for any follow-up.

9. Relax. Journalists will often appreciate a quick response but they might not get back to you as quickly. Sending a number of emails or calling the journalist often to check if they are using your contribution is generally not appreciated.

Try the above and you should get a better hit-rate with media requests.

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