It’s October, and in the spirit of Halloween, being “ghosted” as a PR professional is not uncommon but can follow with feelings of confusion or self-blame. We have all been there. Imagine, you spend time developing friendly and professional relationships with journalists, craft a strong pitch surrounding your client’s innovative products, have sent samples and may even make a professional date to meet up in-person in the near future. You feel like you have their undivided attention. Then, an abrupt halt in conversation. *Cue sad violin music*
Similar to the unsettling feeling of being ghosted by a significant other, your thoughts can turn to questions like:
“Was it something I said?”
“Was I bugging them too much?”
Lingering on these kinds of questions for too long can hurt your self-esteem and affect your quality of work.
Thankfully, you can keep this calming thought in mind to clear the suspense and confusion: there’s a huge chance that their sudden disappearance had nothing to do with you. Journalists are very busy. They talk to so many people every single day both in-person, on the phone and via email. They are continuously juggling different story ideas, writing breaking news stories, testing out all kinds of products and writing creative, buzz-worthy pieces that will catch your attention. Journalists also receive anywhere between 100-200 pitches per day minimum, offering even more ideas and products (that’s at least 500-1,000 pitches per week!). Therefore, there’s a huge chance that your follow-up emails can get lost in the avalanche of all their other unread emails.
Luckily, you’re not alone. There are a few best practices to help optimize your time and patience in time for the next conversation with your contact.
Be The Ghost
Remember, the news cycle is 24/7. A major event or breaking news can shift an outlet’s focus for some time, which means all media staff must be on deck. If you don’t receive a response after multiple follow-ups, lay low for a little while and shift your attention. It is always safe to assume that your contact may be busy with other priority projects and strict deadlines. In lieu of multiple follow-ups, be on the lookout for their current coverage and check social media accounts from time-to-time. Perhaps your contact is traveling for work or vacation and is unable to respond. In the meantime, continue to reach out to additional contacts at that publication and build new relationships to ensure a steady stream of conversation and interest.
With that said, follow-ups are still the most effective way of maintaining relationships and securing press coverage for your clients or brand, so continue to use your best judgment when it comes to how often you follow up.
Keep Your Brand Cheerleader Costume On And Get Creative!
As spokespersons for our clients at a public relations agency, we become their biggest fans and supporters. If you are struggling to reach someone or if you notice they are showing less interest in your client/brand, don’t get discouraged! Take this as an opportunity to realize what works and what doesn’t and to continue to be the brand’s biggest advocate. For instance, if you notice that something you mentioned in your initial pitch caught the reporter’s interest the most, try to incorporate it back into future pitches again in hopes that it will help secure a story.
Let these experiences inspire you to dig deeper into what’s working for you in terms of maintaining relationships and what is not. Don’t be afraid to try new things and get creative. Try to stay on a journalist’s radar, whether that is through a clever pitch, great imagery, connecting via social media or making personal connections outside of pitching.
Raise Your Spirits *Pun Intended*
When all else fails, let it go. The frustration can be haunting, but make it a point to move on. Chances are you and your contacts will likely cross paths again when the time is right. Take a positive spin on the silence and do some witchcraft with your current pitches. Develop out-of-the-box pitch angles, dig for new opportunities and learn about what’s next for your client. Reach out to different editors at the outlets you would like to see your client featured in.
Last but not least, remember that we are publicists at a public relations firm, not magicians. We can’t perform magic, but we can tell a story with magic.