When you first enter the field of public relations, you quickly learn that catching media’s attention is challenging. Especially as a beginner, it can be intimidating to pick up the phone and call the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times. It feels much safer to type an email, because you can plan your words, click send and not worry about a harsh rejection—but nothing is easier to reject than an email.
Though it’s daunting, there’s a reason why the telephone communication is sacred, and to thrive in the fast-paced media relations game, you need to lose that fear. To get your clients the coverage they’re expecting, you need to embrace phone pitching. At BLASTmedia, we’ve compiled a list of five pointers to help ease the pain for first timers:
1. Find an Angle
It’s important to develop an angle and pitch a targeted selection of media. Once you identify the correct media contacts, develop a creative angle of why their readers would be interested in your client’s product. You have to be an ambassador and show them why it’s a mutually-beneficial partnership.
2. Know When to Call
When you are calling national press, make sure you know where they are located geographically and be aware of the appropriate times to make outreach. Media are generally around their desks in the mornings and are more receptive early in the week to story ideas. When you’re announcing a press release, always try to avoid Mondays and Fridays. (I’ve found it’s best to make outreach on Tuesday or Wednesday mornings.)
3. Keep Your Personality
It’s important to remain conversational and not overlook the basics: always begin with a friendly introduction.
It’s tempting to write out and try to map the conversation. However, it’s more important to let the conversation flow naturally. Instead of writing your pitch word for word, keep bullet points in front of you so you can refer to the information.
Also, avoid opening with a yes or no question. For instance:
ME: “Hi, how are you, this is Julie from BLASTmedia, and I was just wondering if you were planning any upcoming stories surrounding Mother’s Day?”
EDITOR: “No not currently…”
Now what? Instead, try using an open-ended question that segues into a conversation. Once you find your opening hook, practice saying it out loud before you begin making calls. When I start phone pitching a new product I practice in my car on the way to work or with a friend so I can familiarize myself with the new vocabulary. Having a friend throw curveballs at your pitch gives you good practice for a sometimes-unpredictable situation. It’s an easy way to smooth out the kinks and figure out areas in your pitch that need more work.
4. Know What You’re Pitching—Always End with a Call to Action
Make sure you are an expert in the product or service you’re pitching. Ask yourself basic questions and find and understand the answers. However, if you’re ever approached with a question that you can’t answer, never make up a response. Honesty is the best policy, and it’s okay to answer by saying you’ll look into their inquiry and follow up with an email.
Remember to always end your conversation with a call to action. Ask if they’d be interested in more information, photos or a product sample for review if you can provide one.
5. Follow up within a Timely Manner—and Be Professional
If you earn interest, make sure to follow up in a timely manner. Being responsive keeps you on the radar and can significantly increase your chances of coverage.
You’ll speak to all different personalities when you’re making outreach to national media, and you’ll quickly develop a thick skin. Try to improve with each call and pin-point where you could make improvements. Most importantly, remember to always remain professional regardless of the response.
Reaching out to media via telephone is impressive in the public relations business; and it gets things DONE. Anymore though, it’s a dying art. Hopefully, the above tips will help PR professionals who are just starting out.
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