Picture this: It’s Monday morning and you’re informed that the launch you’ve been planning has been moved up to Wednesday! As a PR pro, you know things change last minute, so this news doesn’t rattle your cage. However, it’s crunch time and you need media feedback as soon as possible to make sure the campaign is a success. How do you make this happen – pick up the phone.
Phone pitching is a great way to ensure you’re working with the right target and that you gather instant feedback. It requires a combination of research and quick thinking. It is important to push aside any worries about any first-hand rejection, which can be defeating. Here are a few tips to prepare you to get ready for call downs.
- Before you dial, do the research.
- Spend some time researching your target and their recent articles to confirm he/she is still at the publication and covering the topic you’re pitching. Reporters are notorious for hating phone pitching because they are very busy and on deadline. You don’t want to be the PR person who is pitching them a story that has no relevance to their beat. However, if it is a news story that fits their topic and they’d want to know about, they may actually be happy you went the extra mile to keep them in the loop.
- Extra tip: If you need to justify why you called, reference one of his/her recent articles. Check the reporter’s profile on Cision before you dial because some reporters don’t want to be contacted by phone.
- Timing is key
- Use Twitter to confirm where the reporter is located since time zones can impact when you should call. Also, if you’re reaching out to a broadcast target, do some digging into when the show airs, and make sure not to call during that time.
- Extra tip: As a west coast PR gal reaching out to reporters on the east coast, I’ve had great success calling in the early morning (10 a.m. EST) and right before end of day (5 p.m. EST).
- Plan your pitch in advance.
- Reporters want it “short and sweet,” so keep it within 30 seconds and be prepared to get to the point quickly. Plan for the call by writing down all the key points you’d like to cover and any questions you want to ask.
- Extra tip 1: Getting a reporter on the phone is gold, so use the opportunity to “pick their brain” and gather any-and-all feedback possible. Even if they decline the story angle, inquire about other articles in the pipeline, etc.
- Extra tip 2: The more you practice the better you’ll get. Start calling friendlies or targets at smaller publications first. Soon, you’ll have modified your “spiel” to only what’s been resonating with reporters and you’ll be ready for the big guys.
- Extra tip 3: Sound exciting. The difference between an email and a phone pitch is that you can use tone and voice to make your pitch sound interesting, and that can potentially make the reporter want to cover your story.
- What’s next?
- Whether you secured interest or not, you’re building a relationship. Therefore, be prepared to follow up via email to either thank him/her for the time or provide more information re: the company/news announcement.
- Extra tip: Before hanging up, reiterate your name and the company you’re calling from, and include that in the subject line of your follow up email.
Remember, there’s no template for phone pitching, so test things out to find out what works for you – then share your insight with others!
This article was originally published in September 12, 2015, updated February 6, 2018