As public relations practitioners, we now have so many wonderful tools to use to communicate our messages, but nothing is easier for a PR pro than a simple phone call. Having been in the PR industry for more than a decade, I wholeheartedly believe we should spend the time and utilize every piece of the content puzzle to formulate the perfect message for our clients.
However, there are times we must conjure up our PR intern days of yore and just make that phone call.
Pick Up the Phone
In my years of experience, I have found that the best (and quickest) way to build a relationship with contacts in the media is to pick up the phone and actually speak with him or her.
It’s not easy – it’s hard. You will be rejected. However, you will get a nugget that will make you pick up the phone again. Even if it’s just a gruff voice yelling “I’m on a deadline!” You will know next time that A) that person picks up the phone and B) you should call on a different day.
It has been well documented that journalists hate the cold call, perhaps more than you hate making them. So, before you just pick up the phone to chat, do a little research. Know your contacts. What have they written recently, what are they tweeting, who do they follow? How often do they write and what other outlets have picked up their work? It’s so easy to get this information quickly and it will help immeasurably when you pick up the phone.
I suggest prior to picking up the call, take a journalist’s advice and send a targeted email pitch. This Business Insider article goes into some excellent detail about how to pitch journalists when they don’t know who you are.
Then, it’s on to the call. Having some marketing background has helped my calls. I’ve worked with enough sales people and listened to enough cold calls to know that it helps to have a few bullet points written down of what I’m trying to discuss. I am always polite and ask them if it’s a good time to pitch them. If they accept, I get to it quickly and succinctly. The reporter doesn’t want a long pitch but with luck, they’ll ask a question or two. Just like all your other messages – give the reporter a call to action. Then say thanks for the time and get off the call.
Just as your Mother reminds you to do with Aunt Edna, remember the thank you note. In this case, a quick thank you email is perfect. Thank your contact for taking your call and send along a link to a recent case study, infographic or press release.
PR Phone Call
The “PR phone call” has led me down all sorts of paths. Sometimes you get the gruff person on the other end of the phone. Most often though, a reporter is looking for a story as well and may find what you’re pitching interesting. Or your contact may be able to offer some advice which makes your pitch more compelling. Any of these scenarios will help you in your future calls.
I promise, going back to the basics of media relations is still a good way to build a relationship with a reporter. It’s also the way to look like a rock star with your boss and clients.
How about you? Have you found a compelling hook that works in your calls?