How to Respond to Reporter Requests and Get Press

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Yes, cold pitching reporters can get you press, especially when you have a great story to share.  However, some of the best opportunities to achieve press are through reporter requests for sources.  It goes without saying that if a reporter is actively looking for your particular viewpoint or business expertise, you’re more likely to get press.

There are many ways to find reporter requests – some great options include subscription outlets that publish reporter queries, and Twitter (search for phrases such as “looking for a source” or #journorequest).  Of course accessing reporter requests is only half the battle.  Keeping up with and identifying requests which are relevant to your business takes time and persistence.  And then you have to make the reporter understand why you are the best match for their request.

Here we offer best practices for responding to reporter requests:

  1. Understand the reporter’s request.  What is the reporter specifically asking for?  Topical background and expertise?  A specific experience?  Are there any demographic requirements which they want the source meet?
  2. Make sure you are relevant.  Do not waste your time trying to make your background or business fit the query.  If you don’t meet all of the reporter’s requirements, skip it.  The reporter certainly will.
  3. Always customize the pitch.  If you are responding to lots of requests, it’s okay to use some boilerplate.  Just make sure to vary the boilerplate as necessary, to tailor it to the specific request.
  4. Address all of the main points of the query.  Some reporter queries will be a simple request for someone who meets certain requirements.  Other queries will ask for the source to provide extra information or answer questions.  Answer all questions that appear in the query completely, but do not add extra information unless it directly supports an answer to a question.
  5. Always make a connection for the reporter between your background and the specific query. For example, if the reporter is asking for someone to talk about good nutrition for elderly people, simply stating your background and nutrition expertise is not enough – it should be linked to, for instance, your experience working with elderly people.
  6. Use keywords from the query in your pitch. For example, if the query asks for people who can “leverage social media,” use that phrase in your pitch. Use your own best judgment to identify what the keywords are.
  7. Keep it short and sweet.  Your pitch should be as concise as possible.  Unless the reporter is requesting additional information, your pitch should be no more than 3 paragraphs at most.
  8. Follow a clear and standard pitch structure and format.  This will save you time, and help keep your pitch concise:
  • Write a clear and concise subject line that indicates you are responding to their request
  • In the body of the email, start with a brief introduction of yourself and your background or qualifications.
  • Use the second paragraph to convey why you are a good match for their request.
  • Conclude by briefly expressing your interest in being a source and request for follow up.
  • Your signature should include your contact information and any other digital assets, such as your Twitter handle or Linked In profile.  Skip any brand images or logos, unless they are clean, small, and inconspicuous, and do not include any attachments unless the reporter specifically requests it.

Want more tips on pitching reporters?  Read our post on How to Think Like a Journalist when Pitching Your Story.