The Importance of Email in Public Relations and what Journalists Expect
19 Jul 2019
A reporter with one of the largest Indian dailies received an email with the subject line, ‘Famous Person’s Quotes’. Occupied with a looming deadline, the journalist did not open the email, and continued reaching out to a few Public Relations executives, for a quote from their clients for the story that she was writing. A few days later, when she was clearing out her inbox, she realized that the sender of the mail was from a PR agency that she often worked with. The email turned out to have a quote from a client of theirs, that would have been a perfect fit for the story that she was working on. Thus, all thanks to a misleading subject line, the client missed out on the opportunity to be featured in a very popular story on the field that they operated in. Now, any Public Relations professional will testify to how big a disaster this is for them.
Emails; cost effective, fast and secure are currently the most common form of correspondence in most of our professional lives. This holds especially true for the PR professionals and publicists.
Now, consider the fact that millions of people working in different fields from around the world, have this tool at their disposal. This should give you an idea of what the average person’s email inbox will look like. In fact, research has shown that the average working professional receives about 100 emails a day. Now, consider this scenario from a journalist’s point of view. Public Relations professionals have millions of clients between them, all of who want positive coverage in the media. Thanks to this, and the ease of sending someone an email, a journalist usually receives dozens of media pitches a day, from different PR professionals. In fact, journalists from some of the most popular media houses in the country have said that they receive at least 20 pitches a day.
Now, how does a journalist deal with all of these emails? Today, media professionals are inundated with work. They are expected to write articles or produce news segments at a break neck speed. In the midst of this, dealing with a full email inbox is probably low on their to – do list. However, many journalists have also said that they often feel guilty that they receive so many emails every day and are unable to respond to them. However, the bigger question here is; should they even respond to each of these mails. Do receivers of an email have a responsibility to respond to each one, or is email simply a platform where people do not necessarily expect a response.
A senior journalist recently said that, while she wants to respond to all the emails that she receives, she is quite simply too busy to do so. Since, responding to each and every pitch that she receives is impossible; she has to prioritize the ones that interest her or are sent by people, she knows. Or if she could not cover a certain story but was interested in future pitches, or needed story ideas on a related topic, she lets the PR professional know. Between the deadlines that she has to meet every week and the sheer amount of work that comes with it, most other emails simply go unanswered. This is especially because, most of these mails are simply not worth responding to.
However, many journalists who have made the switch to Public Relations now say that they wish journalists would respond to all the pitch mails, but that they know it is not possible. Often, responding to an email, even with a polite decline, can result in a barrage of emails from the same sender. This means more work for the journalist, which seems like too much to ask for when most of these pitches are simply boiler – plate ones, that are sent out to multiple journalists and are often not relevant to the journalist in question.
In good PR, Public Relations professionals do diligent research and remain patient with reporters. They have to consider that a journalist might not have seen their pitch at all, because of the sheer volume of emails that they receive. While, all publicists want positive media coverage for their clients, sending an unrelated, boilerplate pitch, and then constantly trying to follow up with the journalists, is unlikely to get them a positive response.
But then again, most PR professionals, especially those who have been in the field for a long time, do not expect a response to every pitch that they send. While, the relationship between a journalist and publicist is a complicated one, they usually understand each other. PR professionals usually expect a response, only if the journalist is interested in their pitch. However, most people in PR have said that while they don’t expect a response to a pitch that a journalist is uninterested in, they would appreciate one. These decline mails can go a long way in developing a relationship between journalists and PR pros, who can often get a little frustrated with the common practices of each other’s professions. Even a simple “No” as a response, can let these PR professionals know that they need not waste their or the journalist’s time on the subject anymore. As a journalist put it, “I am a big fan of the, ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ sentiment. I have found that taking five minutes to type out a response, has always brought me positivity and success in my work.”
A number of journalists say that they agree with this sentiment. When they have the time to respond to more than just the pitches that they have deemed relevant, it often benefits them. PR professionals can ultimately help journalists in their quest to create great content, increase readership or viewership and profits. However, they have to be familiar with the stories that a certain publication or journalist does and send out short and succinct pitches.