You’re scrolling through the morning’s requests from the Journalist Enquiry Service and suddenly, there it is…the dream enquiry, from your client’s target press, about the big issue they can comment on, or a product they supply.
You know you can help this journalist – so you hit reply and get typing…first come first served, journalists are busy people, right? Well, yes they are – but also, according to journalists who use the Journalist Enquiry Service, it’s not as black and white as that.
We were surprised too.
What do journalists say about speedy replies from PRs?
In November we asked past users of the Journalist Enquiry Service for their opinion on how important speed of reply is when they send a request. They said:
Speed is key – 10.7%, A bit of a balance – 54.1%, As long as it’s before the deadline – 35.2%
Basically the message from the actual journalists who send requests through the Journalist Enquiry Service seems to be “don’t dawdle, but don’t panic”.
We’ve always said journalists’ deadlines should be sacrosanct (it’s one of the reasons we introduced expiring email addresses back in 2013) but journalists respect their own deadlines too. They want you to have time to respond (if anything we find ourselves encouraging journalists to give slightly tighter deadlines at times).
They know you and your client aren’t machines (yet…) and while they’d love instant responses, they don’t expect them, and quality is the most important factor.
Quality over velocity
So when you see a request, pause, read it carefully and take that deadline seriously – the journalist does. Some requests will have an incredibly short deadline and you do need to act quickly. Very occasionally a request will be so surprisingly successful, the journalist realises they can’t use any more replies and closes the request early. But that’s quite unusual – perhaps a two or three times a month at the most, from an average 2,500 enquiries.
The message from journalists who use ResponseSource Journalist Enquiry Service is that speed isn’t everything. Reply promptly – and as soon as you can, but take the time to check your reply is complete. Confirm your client is free for an interview (something that came up at our recent journalist panel event) before putting them forward, or double check you’ve provided everything requested in your reply, like pictures, prices, links or biographies of experts. Almost 90% of journalists are telling us that speed is not the main factor when they look at replies to requests (but the deadline really, really matters).
We’ll be asking our journalist community for their views on other issues around replying to requests – send us your questions (to firstname.lastname@example.org) and we’ll try to get useful answers for you, too.