How to Respond to Media Requests
You’ve put blood, sweat and tears into building your brand and establishing your business, and it’s finally paying off. You’re turning a healthy profit, your customer base is growing, and you’re attracting attention from industry experts. Congratulations. This is no mean feat.
You’ve also started receiving media requests from newspaper and magazine journalists, which is a big coup, as it means the media are seeing something newsworthy in your business.
However, you need to think carefully about what you do next. Journalists put lots of media requests out and are inundated with replies. They also work to tight deadlines. If you’re not savvy with the way you respond, yours may end up on the bottom of the pile, or if you annoy them, you could be blacklisted altogether.
If you want to stay in journalists’ good books and maximise your chances of bagging some column inches, there are some basic rules of thumb to follow when responding to media inquiries.
Before we delve into them, let’s go back to basics.
What is a media request?
When writing stories, journalists often seek out quotes, comments, or interviews from businesses in the industry they’re writing about. They typically put requests out on social media, forums, or on dedicated platforms such as JournoRequests, PressPlugs and ResponseSource.
These asks are known as media requests. And if you play your cards right, they’re one of the quickest and easiest ways to get your business featured in the media.
Why respond to media requests?
Media requests are well worth responding to. Sure, you may get lucky and snag a piece in a national newspaper through cold pitching if you have an irresistible story. But if a reporter is actively looking for an expert in your industry for a quote or opinion, it’s another way to score coverage.
Not convinced? Here are four more great reasons why you should respond to media inquiries.
They’re quick and easy to respond to
A lot of business owners put PR at the bottom of their to-do lists because they don’t have time to dedicate to it. While it’s true that public relations takes time and effort, finding and responding to media requests is relatively quick and easy. This is because platforms such as JournoRequests do the hard work for you. Once signed up, you receive media requests directly to your inbox, saving you time scouring the internet for relevant opportunities.
When you spot a suitable one, it only takes a few minutes to respond. Don’t feel the need to write a lengthy essay. A short but relevant answer sent within an hour will put you in a much stronger position than an in-depth answer that’s taken days to craft.
In terms of content, your response should be a few paragraphs at most, and include the following:
- A couple of sentences about your business and what it does
- A short paragraph about why your business is relevant to the request
- Your contact information and availability
If you have more to say, instead of including it in your first email, say that you’re available to talk on the phone in the next few days. If the journalist wants to know more, they’ll follow up
The stories are already newsworthy
The term ‘newsworthy’ is thrown around a lot in the PR industry. Journalists are always on the lookout for ‘newsworthy’ stories, i.e. stories people want to read at that particular moment in time. While most businesses have news worth shouting about, it can be difficult to pick and pitch the right story at the right time.
The beauty of media requests is you don’t have to worry about that. The story is already there, and it’s already newsworthy. All you need to decide is whether it’s relevant to your business.
You can earn coverage in publications you’d never considered
Media request services and hashtags such as #journorequest are used by reporters and editors from a variety of publications and media outlets, from the BBC to consumer magazines and the trade media. This means you could end up getting coverage in a publication you hadn’t previously considered.
It’s worth noting that media requests are also put out by bloggers, influencers and content creators, who can be equally as influential as journalists to your PR efforts.
You can start to build relationships with the media
Responding to media requests is a great way to start building relationships with journalists and editors who are typically very tough to get hold of. If your response ticks all their boxes and you give them what they need when they need it, the chances are they’ll come back to you in the future.
To build on the connection, follow the reporter on social media, comment on articles and blog posts that are relevant to your business and share their content.
These are just a few small things you can do to ensure you stay on their radar.
For more advice on building relationships with the media, read: Media Relations: How to Forge a Positive Relationship with the Media.
How to respond to media inquiries
To maximise your chances of securing coverage, there are some things to keep in mind when crafting your media response. Be sure to:
Follow the journalist’s instructions
When responding to media alerts, always do as the journalist has asked. If they ask you to email a particular address, do so. Don’t seek out their number and call or email incessantly. This is a sure-fire way to irritate them.
Also, some journalists might ask you to enter a specific phrase in the subject line of the email, to make it easier to find responses in their busy inboxes. If they ask you to do this, do it or you might miss out on a golden opportunity.
Consider the relevance
Read the request carefully and only respond if your business fits the criteria. If it doesn’t, or you don’t meet all the reporter’s requirements, skip it. If you send an irrelevant response, your email will be deleted, along with your chance of building an ongoing relationship with a key media contact.
It’s equally important to consider whether the publication is right for your business. Does the publication share your company values? Is it relevant to your target audience? You don’t want to spend time responding to requests that do nothing for your PR efforts.
Bonus Tip: If the request is not relevant to you, but you know someone who would be perfect to comment, pass their name and contact details on. Doing a journalist a favour – even when there’s nothing in it for you – means when you come to submit a media request response, or have a story to pitch, they’re more likely to read your email or take your call.
Stick to what you know
In addition to being relevant, make sure the request fits your area of expertise. If you try and make your response fit, or wing it, the journalist will spot it, hit delete and your efforts will be in vain.
Be quick to respond
If everything checks out, speed is of the essence. Media requests are very popular, and journalists don’t have time to hang around. So, the sooner you respond, the better.
A short response with a juicy soundbite will fare much better than a long-winded one.
Answer the question and nothing else
When responding to media requests, be sure to meet the journalist’s criteria. Resist the urge to send them extra material. You may think you’re doing them a favour, but if they have to wade through press releases, ebooks and white papers to pull out what they need, you’re increasing the amount of work they have to do. Needless to say, it won’t go down well. The aim of the game is to make the reporter’s job as easy as possible. Do that and you’ll be their new best friend.
Bonus Tip: If you want your response to stand out from the rest, include a killer soundbite. If you want to know how to use soundbites, read GuideVine’s blog post: 8 Tips for Responding to Press Inquiries
Avoid jargon and sales speak
Unless the media request has come from a trade publication where readers will understand the ins and outs of your business, avoid jargon, acronyms, and technical language. On the whole, journalists produce stories to inform the general public. So, keep the language simple and direct. You’re not going to impress anyone by sending over a page of waffly sales spiel.
Wow them with stats
Using a couple of compelling statistics, a piece of research or other facts to underscore your point can be a winning strategy, as journalists love empirical evidence to back up their stories. They also add credibility to a story. But be sure to use them sparingly. You don’t want to bury your key messages in numbers.
Be patient and prepare for the follow up
Once you’ve sent your response into cyber space, sit tight. Resist the urge to follow up with calls or emails. Reporters are inundated with replies. If they want more information, you’ll know about it soon enough.
The best thing you can do is prepare for the next step. Make sure you have any additional information ready to send. Do you have high-quality images ready to go? Are your press kit and website up-to-date?
There’s no surer way to annoy a journalist than taking your sweet time getting information to them. So, be prepared.
If the request is for an interview, you or your spokesperson needs to be fully prepped on what to say. Rehearse your key messages, prepare for unexpected or ‘tricky’ questions, and remember, nothing is ever ‘off the record’. So, don’t say anything you don’t want to read in the newspaper, even if the interview is over.
Bonus Tip: If the thought of a media interview fills you with dread, book some media training. You’ll learn how to be comfortable in a media environment, steer an interview away from awkward questions, and talk in quotable soundbites, among other things. It’s not only useful for media requests, it’ll serve you well for any other interactions you have with the media.
For more information read: Why You Need Media Training.
This may be the single most important piece of advice when responding to media inquiries and dealing with the media in general. If you say you’ll do something, be sure to do it – ahead of the time you promise it. If you don’t, you risk losing credibility and future media opportunities for being unreliable.
A big part of PR is relationship building. Show the reporter you’re a helpful, reliable source and they may well come back for more.
Don’t be disappointed if you don’t score coverage
Don’t take it personally if a journalist doesn’t come back to you. There may not have been anything ‘wrong’ with your response. It may just be that they received hundreds of replies and others were a better fit for that particular story than yours.
Help is at Hand
There’s no exact science to responding to media requests. Every inquiry, every story and every journalist is different. However, by following the tips above, and throwing in a bit of charm, humour and personality, you’ll put yourself in a good position to see your brand name in print.
If you want to boost your chances of coverage even further, why not employ the services of a highly skilled PR agent? With 25 years’ experience in the industry, I’m well placed to respond to media requests on your behalf, or help you craft killer responses that the media won’t be able to resist.
Give me a call to get the ball rolling.