In the nine months I’ve been an Account Coordinator with the LEWIS PR team, I’ve learned a tremendous amount about my role, my clients and the PR industry as a whole. I’ve learned the ins and outs of Google News (although that particular learning never ends), how to think on my toes and manage the logistics of an account.
Most importantly, I’ve come 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 I began pitching in hopes of such coverage, I noticed most reporters ask PR Pro’s to contact them via email. While most made their phone number available, I got the impression that email was their first choice of communication. I realized they are trying to avoid what could be perceived as the un-welcome “cold call.”
My first instinct was 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.
Once while pitching trade publications with client news, I called a reporter to follow up on my initial email. She responded, “Yes, I saw your email. I don’t think this information is applicable to our readers.”
I thought that was the end. Yet to my surprise, she came back with, “Unless you know something I don’t, or can change my mind.”
Wow, no pressure. But, it turns out I helped the reporter discover a new angle that might just interest her readers after all. Several hours later she emailed me that she would use the information in an upcoming article. That was a great day, all because I took time to pick up the phone.
Since then I’ve been a firm believer in phone pitching. I’ve not only been able to secure coverage for my clients, but I’ve developed important relationships with key media while getting to know more about their beats and interests. These relationships and knowledge are invaluable and will stay with me throughout my career.
Here are a few more tips and tricks I’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 so you don’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) 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 and reference your phone conversation in the email.