Lizzie | http://www.dontdrinkthekoolaidblog.com/
But more often than not, it’s not that easy.
Usually, a pitch that’s going to warrant a great in-depth story is going to require a great, in-depth pitch and email just isn’t always the way to go. So when email isn’t cutting it, here are a few tips I’ve learned to help garner results by phone.
First ask yourself this: Is a phone conversation even going to do it? If not, then ask the media person to drinks, coffee, lunch, or a deskside appointment. Face-to-face time is wildly more valuable and wildly more productive. Just recently, Katie Levien and I set up a meeting with the new editor of San Diego’s Downtown News. The result was an ongoing series dedicated solely to our client, Seaport Village, highlighting a different tenant each month. Had we requested that by email, she may have thought us absurd but our face-to-face conversation led us to this great result.
If a phone call will do, make your call wisely. Is your list of media to call seven pages long? Treat those seven pages one call at a time. Research the pub and the person to make sure you have a fit and that you know just the way to propose it to the person on the other end.
Then when you do pick up the phone keep the following tips in mind:
- Remain calm and cool. The media person on the other end is likely going to sound like they’re rushing you because naturally, he or she is busy. Respect that, but do not let it get in your way. Remind yourself of this before you pick up the phone so that their quick response is not a surprise that throws you off.
- Talk slowly. Respecting their time can be done with a succinct pitch and a concrete question or request from them. It doesn’t mean that you have to talk abnormally fast.
- Entice him or her to respond. I find it best to start with: “My name is Lizzie Younkin and I work with Seaport Village. Are you familiar with the destination?”
You may get some great info from them to help direct the rest of your conversation, or you may learn that they just did a story on it (shame on you for not knowing) and you can end your conversation before wasting their time. Here are a few other tips and tricks that may help you get the job done:
- Pause. Let them respond and think and talk it through with you. Allow it to be a conversation instead of a pitch.
- Try calling on Fridays. If they’re in the office, people seem to be quite happy then!
- Keep in mind deadlines for different outlets. If you know that one publication always goes to print on Thursday, try calling on Friday or Monday. If you know another is on deadline the last week of the month, respect that week and make your call another time.
- Research new contacts. If you’re not finding the right contact, kindly ask editorial assistants and receptionists to get you to the right place.
- Here are a few key questions to ask in order to get the conversation going in the right direction:
Is this __ and do you cover __?
I know, it sounds so obvious but how annoying would it be to give your whole pitch to the wrong person? Also, if you say what they actually do cover, then they’ll know right away that you have something that likely fits their beat and will be more likely to hear you all the way through. If they don’t cover the beat you’re pitching, ask what they cover and ask if they know who covers the beat you’re looking for. Consider every interaction an opportunity.
As mentioned earlier, ask if he or she is familiar with your product or brand, or propose your roundup/trend/pitch and ask straight up if they’d ever cover anything like that. Sometimes this isn’t so easy, but if you’re pitching a product for a holiday roundup, the quickest way to the point usually starts with “Hi, this is Lizzie Younkin calling from USAopoly, I’m wondering if you’re compiling any holiday gift guides this year?” This allows you to work your product into something they’re already doing, rather than giving your pitch, and leaving it to them to figure out where to fit it.
In sum, my rule of thumb is to always imagine that you’re sitting across the table from the person, enjoying a coffee. Your phone call should feel like a respectable and succinct conversation. If it’s not working out, but you know you have a great pitch, literally meet for coffee to build your relationship and find ways to work together that are mutually beneficial. While not everyone wants to pick up a phone call when they know it’s a pitch, everyone is willing to pick up a call from a friend.