To do or not: Responding to a journo request when you're not exactly what they asked for


So as you know, last week I shared with you 7 hotspots for finding and responding to journalists' requests, which is one of the quickest ways to get coverage. Now I'm going to iron out what to do when you face this conundrum (which comes up more often than you might think): you've seen a request for an article you feel you could contribute something really valuable on... but the only catch is that you're not exactly what the journalist asked for. 

For example, let's say it's an article on dealing with PTSD in business. They're searching for anecdotes from people who've been through this, but you're actually a business coach with a psychology background who could help them immensely with your professional opinion. 

What to do? Do you let the opportunity slide, for fear of annoying the journalist or do you offer yourself up anyway? 

Here's my take... 

Do your research

As I always say, fail to prepare and prepare to fail. Just as you would when sending a pitch out of your own accord, you should do a little research on the journalist sending the request before you respond. Why? Because if they regularly include quotes from experts in their pieces, you'll know that it's highly likely they'll include one in this piece, too, which means you're in with a chance. 

Build your understanding of how articles work 

If a piece is about mental health or something of the sort, the journalist is unlikely to write it without including a quote from an expert. Once you know the rhythm of how different pieces work, you'll understand what else a journalist might be looking for and can put yourself forwards with confidence. 

Display what kind of value you can offer

When you're responding to a request from a journalist that isn't quite what they asked for, don't dilly dally around in your email or message. Acknowledge that you're responding to their request in an alternative way and display quite quickly in what capacity you can provide value. Think creatively about how you could contribute, whether it's by offering a different perspective or sharing relevant data and insights. 

Share a quote then and there

With these sorts of requests, journalists are often on tight deadlines, so offering a valuable quote on the topic then and there can be really helpful. I've been known, in the past, to lift quotes like this straight from emails and into my pieces, only informing the source afterwards that I've done it. In those cases, I've really appreciated having a quote to pull straight away without having to go back and forth over email. Even if it's not exactly what they're looking for, it'll give them a taster of your style of speaking and the insights you can share, so it's a win-win either way.

Think of the future

Even if you can't help with this particular request, responding in a professional and helpful manner can go a long way in building a relationship with the journalist for the future. Keep in touch and continue to offer value where you can - you never know when a future opportunity may arise.