In this wonderful world of public relations, we are constantly walking a fine line between being too persistent in our follow-up and not persistent enough. There is a balance to achieve between annoying a reporter (client, partner, etc.) by bugging them too much and missing an opportunity because you were not persistent enough.
So how do we ensure that we walk that line?
1) Be patient. If you are like me, you want everything done five minutes ago, but for the rest of the world, things RARELY take five minutes, and everyone is busy. It’s important to sit back and give people a chance to respond to you. Maybe even an entire week. Save your serial phone calls for the really urgent issues. And if you are working on a tight deadline, be up front with your client or partner – if they understand the urgency of the situation, they will be much more understanding of why you are in such a hurry to get something done.
2) Be consistent. Follow up with people in a consistent manner. If your first email got no response, reach out again with a second email or a voicemail. We all get buried in messages from time to time, or put something off for another day and then forget about it, but sometimes a polite reminder will do the trick. Speaking from personal experience, I have found that the response rate almost doubles when you send a follow-up correspondence. Remembering to circle back with people is also a challenge. Keep a record, list or log of people to contact, including dates to do so. This will help you stay on top of it, even with everything else you have going on.
3) Know when to drop it. Sometimes, no matter how many times you contact someone, or how many different methods you use (phone, email, IM, snail mail) you just can’t pry open that door. It’s important to recognize this and realize when it’s time to stop, before you become labeled a pest. Sometimes a reporter is just not interested in your story or a partner is just not going to participate in this particular event. That’s okay – it doesn’t mean that you don’t have a chance for the next time, as long as you don’t burn that bridge by becoming an annoyance.
As I said before, it’s a fine line to walk. It takes some trial and error. You have to learn to appeal to different personalities, develop best methods for contact and become familiar with a persons’ approachability. But by using the guidelines above, you should be able to safely navigate through these tricky waters, always using your best judgment.