Each member of the LEWIS PR team, learns a tremendous amount about their role, clients and the PR/marketing industry as a whole, during their careers. They learn which journalists to follow, how to think on their toes and manage the logistics of an account. Most importantly, the PR team comes to understand that while delivering a detailed coverage report or a perfect news scan is crucial to the structural integrity of an account, what really delivers in the client’s eyes is strong, well placed coverage. That’s what will get you high fives at the end of a long day.
As we began pitching in hopes of such coverage, we noticed most reporters ask PR Pro’s to contact them via email. While most made their phone number available, we often get the impression that email is their first choice of communication. Not surprisingly, they are trying to avoid what could be perceived as the un-welcome “cold call". Often times, our first instinct is to pick up the phone and get to know the living, breathing person on the other end.
When you’re starting out, it’s vital to start building your own media relationships and you can’t do that all over email. Sure, it’s much easier to hide behind an email. If you call, journalists may have no interest or even hang up on you, leading to embarrassment and frustration. Then again, there’s the chance they’ll want to hear more and eventually mention or feature your client in a piece.
That being said, phone pitches still hold an important place in PR. It not only secures coverage for clients, but also develops important relationships with key media while getting to know more about their beats and interests. These relationships and knowledge are invaluable and often times stick with you throughout your career.
Here are a few quick tips we've learned for reaching out to reporters over the phone:
1. Don’t call unless you know your story is relevant to them.
Sounds obvious, but if more PR Pro’s did this, reporters wouldn’t be as closed to phone calls in the first place
2. Be respectful of their time.
Don’t call 5 minutes before deadline and don’t waffle.
3. Be ready to articulate why your pitch is important.
If you can’t back up your story idea, you won’t gain interest.
4. Jot down key points you want to make while on the phone.
This way, you won't forget to mention what’s important to your client.
5. Stay cool.
Don’t be flustered by a reporter’s questions, bad mood, or inability to be convinced.
6. Be confident.
If you are self-conscious in front of colleagues within earshot, make the call from a conference room.
7. Look at the reporter’s recent articles.
You need to know what they cover and be ready to reference relevant articles, if possible.
8. Keep it casual, yet professional.
Don’t sound stuffy or practiced. Speak to them like you would a friendly colleague. It allows reporters to open up and be more responsive.
9. Keep the press release or original pitch in front of you.
It helps in case you need to reference it while on the phone.
10. If they ask you to send more information, do so promptly.
Reference your phone conversation in the follow up email.