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Here’s How Journalists Want You to Pitch Them

Muck Rack is a proud sponsor of PRSA.

Every year, Muck Rack sends out our State of Journalism survey, when we get the chance to ask journalists of all beats and backgrounds how, when and where they want to be communicated with by PR professionals. 

The State of Journalism is part of our larger mission to help build stronger relationships between PR and journalists. 

As the media landscape continues to grow and evolve, PR professionals face greater challenges in figuring out effective ways to build relationships and communicate with journalists. 

Keeping up with the latest trends in journalist behavior to better inform your communications strategy can be no easy feat. While some tactics may continue to work, others can’t keep up with the accelerating pace of the profession. 

We surveyed over 1,000 journalists to bring you actionable insights in The State of Journalism 2020. Among them, a clear picture emerges of when, where and how journalists prefer to be pitched. Here’s what we learned. 

When is the best time to pitch a journalist? 

When it comes to getting your pitch to stand out in a journalist’s inbox, timing is everything. To that end, most journalists (64 percent) told us that they prefer to be pitched before noon.

This isn’t surprising, but the fact that the third-most-popular choice was overnight shows that journalists are catching up on those overnight emails the next morning. If you want to send a pitch when it’s most likely to be read, send it in the morning. 

When is the best day to pitch a journalist?

Over 60 percent of the journalists who took our survey said they have no preference for what day they receive pitches, owing to the fact that a true reporter never truly stops paying attention. Among those who chose a specific day, however, Monday was the most popular choice.

As the week went on, fewer journalists claimed they preferred to be pitched on each given day. Best to send your pitches at the top of the week if you want to maximize your chances of getting a reply. 

What is the ideal pitch length?

Over 90 percent of journalists told us that pitches should be capped at 2-3 paragraphs, a reminder that you should just stick to the most newsworthy information and save any additional background or context for the follow-up. Sixty-one percent said that 2-3 paragraphs are the sweet spot, while 31 percent thought a 2-3 sentence pitch was ideal. Those short pitches are likely only ever appropriate for the journalists who you already have an established relationship with.

Why do journalists reject otherwise relevant pitches?

Lack of personalization is once again the #1 reason why journalists reject otherwise relevant pitches, followed closely by bad timing (as the other insights can help you with). Learning your journalist’s beat, the niche they cover within their beat, and reading/engaging with them about their work will go a long way in helping you personalize your pitch when the time comes — just be careful to not act opportunistic or insincere when working to maintain that relationship.

How many follow-ups are journalists OK with receiving to a pitch they didn’t initially respond to?

Following-up on your pitch can be tricky — you want to be persistent (especially if the news peg is time sensitive), but you also don’t want to come off as pushy or annoying. That good news is, journalists are OK with you following-up on that pitch — 55 percent said one follow up is completely appropriate. From there, 27 percent said two follow-ups are appropriate, so you probably best save your persistence for those pitches that really require a sense of urgency. 

How long should you wait to send a follow-up?

Now that you know it’s OK to follow-up on a pitch, when do you send it?Eighty-three percent of journalists think it’s OK to follow up on a pitch within the first week.

While over 50 percent of journalists said that 3-7 days is the ideal window to wait before following up, only 17 percent told us that you should wait longer than a week. Meanwhile, the fact that only 32 percent of journalists think it’s OK to follow-up within 1-2 days suggests that coming on too strong, too quickly might not get the reply you’re hoping for.

Where do you like to receive pitches?

Remember how most journalists told us that a lack of personalization is the main reason they reject otherwise relevant pitches? When asked what method was best for receiving pitches, over 90 percent of journalists told us that 1:1 emails are the move. Mass emails and newswires were much less effective — only 21 percent of journalists said they like receiving emails through these mass communications. The least-liked method, though, was a phone call — over 60 percent of journalists would rather you not bother them on the phone. 

Download The State of Journalism 2020 to learn more about how journalists use social media, their preferences for working with PR practitioners, and their optimism about the future of the profession.

Justin Joffe is the editor of publications and research at Muck Rack, a digital PR and journalism platform, working to change the way professionals approach public relations and encourage better relationships with the media through a unique mix of technology and partnership. Prior to Muck Rack, he was the senior content manager at PRNEWS, overseeing the editorial flow and leading programming on their events.

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