Is There a ‘Best Time’ to Reach Journalists?

This has been a popular question from our blog readers. Several of you have asked “What’s the best time to reach a journalist?” The honest answer is there is no “best time” and every journalist is different. That said, there are some general rules of engagement you can use to get through when you need to, and to avoid being hung up on.

  • Is this a good time for you? – for starters, always use common courtesy. This goes beyond your media calls. Sure, there are plenty of journalists that will say “no” just to get you off the phone, but most will give you a minute to two.
  • Be prepared with an elevator pitch – an elevator pitch is typically used for describing “what you do” in the time it would take to go from one floor to the next in an elevator. In this instance, prepare an elevator pitch for what you’re calling them about. Think in terms of Twitter, where you only get 140 characters. Once the journalist gives you that minute, you should go right to your elevator. If they’re interested, keep talking. If not, proceed to the next bullet.
  • What would make this pitch more interesting? – try to get some advice on the call that will help you with other pitches. If the journalist says “I never write about this type of story,” ask them who does. If they tell you, “I just wrote a story about that, and I won’t cover it again for a while,” ask them when a good time to follow up might be. If they’re just not that in to you, move on to a different contact.
  • What if you can’t find the number? – good salespeople know how to get around the gatekeeper. So do good PR people. While most journalists prefer email, I’ve had far more success with phone pitching – particularly when I don’t waste their time. If you can’t find a direct number for the journalist, call the main number and ask to be transferred. It may sound like common sense, but it works. If you get voicemail, leave a message with your elevator pitch.
  • Repeat your name and number. – nothing annoys people more than having to listen your message over and over again to hear the phone number you rambled off. Speak slowly and repeat your name and number. This could improve your chances of getting a call back.
  • Consider social media. – if you’ve got a great story, consider contacting the journalist through Twitter, LinkedIn or (on rare occasions) Facebook. Again, use your elevator. Ask when a good time to reach them would be and leave it at that. Social media is more casual. Keep it brief, cordial and professional.
  • Confirm how they like to receive information, and when the best time to reach them is. Regardless of their interest in this pitch, you’ll want to know how they like to get stuff and what the best day and time is to reach them. Forget what it says in your “pitch tips”, that information might be outdated. Once you know this, make sure the rest of your team has this information. The better your team is at working with the media, the easier it will be for all of you to find success.
  • Maybe there is no “best time”? – there are some journalists who prefer to never be contacted. For them, there is no best time. That also means anytime will do. Even difficult journalists work with PR people on stories. The trick is getting their attention and giving them something of value – something they are genuinely interested in. There are plenty of other posts on this blog that deal with that topic, so we’ll leave it there for now.

In conclusion, there is no “best time” to reach journalists consistently, but there is a best time for each journalist. It’s up to you to figure it out. We have a popular weekly business paper in Atlanta I’ve worked with for years. Friday, Monday and Tuesday are generally the best days to reach journalists here – though each one has their own preferences. If you call them on deadline day (Wednesday), you’re not going to have much luck. Similarly, if they call you on Wednesday, you’d better return the call quickly, or you’ll miss out.

What approach do you use to figure out the best time to reach a journalist?

(Image Credit: Lefty Clock by RBerteig)

About Jeremy Porter 214 Articles
Jeremy Porter has been passionate about the intersection of public relations and journalism since studying both Public Relations and Journalism at Utica College of Syracuse University in the late 90s. Porter launched Journalistics in 2009 to share his ideas and insights around both professions and how trends and developments in modern day marketing, communications, and technology impact those working in these fields. Porter also values the traditions and history of both professions and regularly shares his perspective in these areas - and related topics geared toward the next generation of journalism and public relations professionals.

5 Comments

  1. Of course, if the story/product you’re shilling is garbage, as 98% of all pitched are, there is NO good time. There are scads of flacks whose calls I won’t take and whose emails I just delete because they never have anything useful…. just a bunch of PR technique that wastes time.

  2. 1. Ask, “Are you on deadline?” and RESPECT a yes, don’t just talk faster.
    2. On voicemail, state you name/number at the beginning and twice at the end. SPEAK SLOWLY
    3. Stick to the 5Ws.. who, what, where, when, why.

  3. You hit it at the end of your piece here. There is no Best Time, but there is certainly a worst time, and that is at or near deadline. In your relationship-building stages with media, you should get to know their deadline days or hours.

    Remember, you are only in this relationship with media to Help Them, not to push your products or services. So get to know the times Not to call. And then you will find the times when they really want you to call. And much of the time, the media does want you to contact them. You can be a valuable source of content and information – that’s all.

  4. First, call when you DON’T need something from a reporter. Email them or leave a message with a really good story idea or insight on new trends you’ve noticed–but not a story that necessarily involves your agency or your company. Just offer it as a tip, with contact info. If it’s good, then the next time you call (after, of course, asking if this is a good time to talk), you might get a better response & recognition as someone with good news sense & credible story ideas. The reporter may be far more willing to hear your pitch at that time. It does take a while to develop those trusting relationships.

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