If you're going to pitch the media by phone, do these three things
How most PR pros feel when they need to pick up the phone to pitch the media.
Editor's Note: We've been talking a lot here on the blog about phone pitching. Last month, Nicole Fallon Taylor, managing editor of Business News Daily answered the question "are cold phone pitches ever OK?" Today, contributor Micah Warren explains what to do if you're going to pitch by phone.
I’ve read some articles recently from media members explaining why they almost always prefer to be pitched via email as opposed to annoying phone calls. Considering how they receive these phone calls and how they are treated, I can more than understand.
The truth is: a very large number of public relations professionals simply don’t know how to phone pitch.
Let me start by saying: it’s probably not their fault. Many times there isn’t anyone who really knows what they are doing to teach them. And I could probably wager a guess and say that the manager that is there to teach the would-be phone pitcher, was never properly trained either.
Yay! It’s a vicious cycle!
Before I start, I do have a message for the media: Please, phone pitching is our best bet for creating a relationship and securing coverage whether you realize it or not. Yes, you prefer email, but I don’t. If I had a nickel for every unreturned pitch to a journalist, I’d be typing this article on my iPad on my yacht.
I hear journalists complain all the time about how their inbox is constantly flooded and many emails go right to the junk folder. Okay, I understand. But, can you understand why I don’t want my news getting lost in all of that?
Let’s look at some easy ways that PR pros can ease some of their fears of the phone (many, many PR pros despise picking up the phone) and reduce any negative feedback from media members.
1. Be authentic. Authenticity is a basic building block for relationship building. I’m not saying anything revolutionary, but sometimes this gets lost in the pitching process. It’s important to be yourself. That may sound like the type of advice a parent gives their 14-year old son who is about to ask a girl to the school dance, but it’s true.
I’m not going to sit here and tell you to pitch like I do. Don’t try to do what I do if you’re not comfortable with it. I have an extremely conversational tone when I pitch media and that works for me. But, not everyone is as outgoing and jovial as I am and that’s fine. You can still have success!
You need to find your own voice and do what works for you. Journalists are real people too. They might be looking at the clock just like you (we’ve all done it). They may be irritated that Steve keeps taking their sodas from the break room. They may have the pitch-by-pitch app running as they follow the Yankees game at work. My point is to remember that they’re real people and you should speak to them like they are. Don’t be afraid, most of them are cool!
2. Be respectful of their time. I can’t emphasize this one enough. Of all of the phone pitching tips I have, this is numero uno. This will change your life if you’re not already asking this magic question that is the absolute key to not annoying journalists:
“This is [insert your name] with [insert your company or organization], do you have a second?”
Right off the bat you’ve shown respect for their time. Poll 100 journalists and ask them how often they get phone calls that start with a name, a company and then go right into a scripted pitch. Who doesn’t love hearing a scripted pitch?!
By asking this quick, simple question, you’ve set yourself apart from the other obnoxious PR pros who can’t wait to blather on about their client. I always get an immediate response with how to proceed and then I do so accordingly.
3. Think of telemarketers. No, you’re not a telemarketer and you’re not calling someone at 8 p.m. at their residence. But, in order to help you phone pitch, try to put yourself in the journalist’s shoes. The best way to do that is to think of a situation we can all relate to: getting called by a telemarketer out of the blue.
Think about it, we’re nicer to some more than others. Which ones are you more receptive to? Do you like it when someone calls and tells you their name and company and then proceeds to read (poorly) from some script? If the answer is no, then why would you do that to a media member?
Are you more receptive to the people who ask if you have a moment to speak and then get right to how what they are selling could benefit you? I know I am. I already told them I have a second and that I’ll listen, and they told me right away that they can cut my cable bill in half. Ok, go for it. I’ll listen to that. I may not buy it, but I’ll give you second to tell me how you can save me money. Very similar with a journalist. In most cases they’ll take a minute to hear if you’ve got something that would make their editor happy. You just have to approach them properly.
Many clients or potential clients think our skill is in our Rolodex. It’s not. Anyone can have contacts, but what good does it do if they don’t like you? Sure, I have plenty of contacts, it doesn’t mean that I can make those contacts write something or interview you on television. I’m not a magician. But, we can certainly have a dialogue and know where we stand, and it starts with showing respect for their time and then interacting in a way that works for you.
Be respectful and be yourself and you’ll be surprised how receptive the media is to phone calls.
A co-founder of Large Media, Inc., Micah Warren has been a public relations strategist for more than 15 years. A published writer with an incredible track record of media placements, Micah has gotten his clients in USA Today, Fox Business Network, Bloomberg TV, Inc.com, CNBC.com, The Daily Caller, The NY Times, The NY Post, Esquire, Maxim magazine, ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” ESPN.com , Askmen.com, GQ, BBC, Reuters and many other newspapers, television shows, radio networks, websites and trade publications.
Photo: Phone call via Shutterstock