The ResponseSource Journalist Enquiry Service distributes hundreds of media requests every week, and we’ve picked up a few tips from both journalists and PRs about what makes a successful media request. By successful, we mean a request where the journalist gets prompt and complete answers that work for their story.
The media and its needs are changing almost daily so we’re not claiming this is the definitive guide, and your own tips are very welcome. Meanwhile, we hope these pointers will help you get more out of your next request to PRs.
1) Make it easy for PRs to understand what you need
If your enquiry has a lot of detail, try to put a quick summary at the top. For example a list of the kind of people, products, or organisations you have in mind that you’d like to hear about. Many PRs have to scan emails and may see only the preview screen on their email client or the first few lines on their phone or tablet. Your enquiry may need a bit of background but kick it off with a list of keywords or bullet points, or a couple of questions, and you may be more likely to catch the attention of that busy PR exec and help them understand that they can help you.
2) Examples, examples, examples
If you’re working on a new version of a regular piece (for example a product top 10, or “five minute guide to…” or a profile page) then linking to a previous article provides both reassurance and guidance for a PR professional. They can see what kind of information you might need and they can show it to their client to encourage them to respond quickly because they’ll understand the kind of coverage they might gain.
3) Name names
Sometimes it’s just unavoidable to say “national press” or “can’t say yet”. It’s always better to give names if you can – PRs still work with target press lists and may be able to help better if they know for sure that the title their client might appear in is on that list. With this in mind give them as much evidence to work on as you can, for example which titles you’ve worked on the past. If you’re freelance link to your JournalistDirectory profile or your own website, if you’re staff link to your media outlet’s website.
Even if you name your title, adding a bit more detail about the number and nature of your readers is really helpful. For example “parents of school-age children”, “IT directors in medium to large UK businesses”, “20k readers each issue”, ABC figures or monthly unique views. And even if your request is for a well-known title like The Guardian or Computer Weekly, there’s no harm in sharing your own take on your readership and their needs (providing you keep it polite and factual!).
5) Think laterally
If you’re using a media enquiry service like ResponseSource look carefully at the categories you can choose from, our category guide, and the other options like Enquiry Type. Consider all the kinds of PR professional who might represent someone who can help your feature. Looking for an expert? Lots of book publishers receive our Leisure & Hobbies category. Question about someone in a specific job? Education & HR reaches recruitment specialists and academics who might know just the person. If you’re not sure, give us a call and we’ll be happy to suggest the best categories for a particular request.
6) PRs are people too – help them and they’ll help you
All these tips are aimed at giving PRs the information they’ve told us they need – if you can help them out they can do their job even better. This means you’ll get not just more results to choose from, but replies that are better targeted to your feature and your audience or readers. If you find yourself getting regular requests for the same information from your enquiries try to include that in future requests (even if it’s “no, I don’t know when the piece will appear either”).
7) And a PR professional does have a sense of humour
A number of our journalists inject a spot of humour, even surrealism in to their enquiries (we’ll spare their blushes and not name names). As well as pepping up a busy PR’s day it can help catch their attention. Not everyone will appreciate a stream of puns and YouTube links but judging from feedback on Twitter a lot of PRs enjoy the occasional lighter touch in their enquiries. When they’ve finished laughing – you’ve got their attention for the meat of your request. So unleash your inner comedian occasionally and see how it works for you.
Finally, if it all goes wrong, don’t keep it to yourself…
Nine out of 10 journalists tell us they get the results they want from ResponseSource. If you send a request and it doesn’t work for you or you’re not sure if an enquiry will work, drop us a line on firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 0345 370 7777 and we’ll listen to what you’re looking for, and try to help you get the answers you need. Or send an enquiry now and let us know what you think of the response.
Are you a PR professional who thinks we’ve missed something essential you wish all ResponseSource users would do?
Or are you a journalist with your own tips for fellow hacks?
Please comment below to tell us what you think makes a media request work wellfor you.