To Follow Up, or Not to Follow Up?

At my internship, I am responsible for disseminating many press releases and other information through e-mail. While in general I feel e-mail is a reliable mode of communication, I often wonder whether or not my messages (and any attachments) made it safely to their destinations– especially when the message was destined for a journalist I knew to be interested in covering the story, or when the materials I sent were deadline-sensitive.

My instinct is often to call the journalist to follow up, but I have heard conflicting advice from college professors as to whether or not this is proper practice. Not to mention the fact that it would be difficult to call every journalist I sent information when you consider the volume of writers and publications I sometimes send materials to.

Herein lies then dilemma: follow up with a call, and risk alienating a journalist by annoying them or seeming too pushy, or simply hope and trust that the message was properly delivered and received?

I recently read a post by Jeremy Porter to a blog called Journalistics. Here are some tips Porter recommended on the subject, based on conversations he had with over 50 journalists:

  • “If your information is relevant and time-sensitive, it’s okay to follow up,” Porter explains- especially if you’ve offered an exclusive to a reporter and need a definitive answer from them. He also advocates following up if you are passionate about a particular story and feel it is a good fit for a certain journalist.
  • Porter describes Twitter as an “efficient and less disruptive approach to use for follow up.” He suggests using a direct message to touch base, as @replying will make your message too public. He advocates avoiding Twitter as a means of following up if you do not have a pre-established relationship with the reporter.
  • Using opt-in e-mail lists allows you to “track deliverability, click-thru and even tie the results to Google Analytics,” so it can be a helpful and efficient way of cutting out the need for follow up calls.

The bottom line, according to Porter: “it’s really a judgment call based on how well you know your information and the journalist you’re pitching.” If you do choose to follow up, don’t just ask the reporter if they received the information you sent them; give them your pitch “in a convincing and efficient manner.” Porter recommends the use an an elevator pitch.

Porter’s rule of thumb? “Don’t follow up for the sake of following up.” What are your suggestions or rules of thumb for following up with journalists? If you are a journalist, how do you feel about receiving follow-up phone calls?

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