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How to win over a reporter with just one more question

A few years ago, I worked with a transportation and logistics company that came up with an interesting idea for an incentive program. When making deliveries, they had their truck drivers ask customers if they had any other orders or loads that they could help with while they were on-site. Any driver that got extra business from this “One More Order” campaign got entered into a drawing for different prizes. The program was very popular and generated a lot of extra business, just by asking “what else can I help you with?”

I think a similar philosophy can be applied to media relations. As many of us in PR know, it’s difficult to get a reporter to respond to your email (or even open it). In Muck Rack’s State of PR 2022 study, 52% of PR professionals listed “getting responses from journalists” as their top challenge. And, when they do respond, the answer can often be “no thanks.”

Rather than accept this rejection, there is a good opportunity here to ask one more question and see if there is something else that you can offer. For example, if you pitch a reporter asking for an interview, and they decline, here are a few things that you can ask to re-direct the conversation and potentially turn a “no” into a “yes.”

  • Contributed articles (bylines) – Recently, an editor turned down some product news from my client, saying that they “just didn’t have time to write a story” because they were too busy with other assignments. I asked if I could help lighten their workload by having the client write a contributed article for them, discussing some high-level trends related to the technology. The editor said yes to the byline, and we started writing the article right away.

  • Podcasts – If a reporter turns down a pitch or request for an interview, do some research and see if they have a podcast. After listening to past episodes, ask them if they would consider your executive or client as a potential guest, explaining what they could talk about on the show and how listeners would benefit from their insights. You will need to invest some time to do the research and get to know the podcast, but it could turn into a great opportunity for a long-form discussion. And podcast interviews are great content to promote on social media, on your website, or in an email campaign.

  • Other stories – Again, this requires some up-front research, but by digging in and looking at some of the main topics, trends and issues that a reporter covers, as well as their different beats, you may be able to offer your expert or client as a source for an upcoming story in an area that the reporter is following closely. It is definitely worth the extra time to read a reporter’s past stories so that you can get to know what’s important to them. The key here is to “connect the dots” and find something that your client has that directly relates to what the journalist is interested in.

By doing your research, giving some extra thought, and asking the right questions, you can help turn a no into a yes, creating new media opportunities and building a better relationship with the editors and reporters that are most important to you.


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