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Don’t tell journalists what they *should* be writing about


We recently had some feedback from a journalist who’d submitted a request for very specific case studies. She was understandably frustrated that she’d received a number of replies from PRs with unrelated press releases, comment and other content that didn’t answer her enquiry.

We think most journalists who use the ResponseSource Journalist Enquiry Service get the results they’re looking for. Just the day before another journalist told me: “… great service, I’ve used it twice this week and the results have saved me a lot of legwork.”

However, clearly some PRs will sometimes grasp at straws. They’re under pressure themselves, from clients or internal targets. I understand the temptation when you see a great title that you’d really like to get coverage in.

We just want to take this opportunity to say: don’t do it! A journalist using ResponseSource has a job to do. Sometimes they’ll be asking for a broad range of leads, news or potential interviewees. But when they ask for something specific, whether that’s a case study, an expert, a product to review or background for a particular article, they just don’t have the time or resources to deal with your potentially great, but off-topic story.

If your story is that good it will stand on its own and your PR skills and experience will see it through to coverage via another route. Use your existing contacts or a media database to compile a targeted list and send out a pitch or press release; publish it on a release wire (yes, we offer both of those but this post is really about getting you better results from journalist requests); put it on your own newsroom or your client’s website; share it on social media. If a journalist wants this story, make it available and they’ll approach you.

But if you receive a request from a journalist then answer the request, not what you think they should be asking. (And that goes for any source, whether it’s a ResponseSource request,  a Twitter call-out, or a journalist who’s taken the time to call you about a story they’re working on.) We don’t like to say this too often because it seems like stating the obvious, but if you waste a journalist’s time with something they can’t use, you’ll annoy them, and you’ll damage any future relationship with them.

Think before you reply (we’ve posted tips here and here) and if you can envisage the journalist raising their eyebrows as they read your opening line of “I know it’s not exactly what you asked for but…” then stop, and wait for the next request. We distribute around 30,000 a year, so there’s bound to be more matches out there for you.  Journalists will be happier with fewer replies but ones which are on-target. If that means this time they’re from your colleagues (or competitors) at other companies, then that’s really OK – you don’t have to do everything. A happy journalist will post more requests in future – and one of those might be just the one you’re waiting for…

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