Public Relations Firm

Phone Pitching – How to Convince Journalists
to Publicize Your Product, Service or Company

By Diana Laverdure

phone pitching

There are many steps to achieving meaningful, positive publicity. In most instances, unless you already have a good relationship with a reporter or editor, it will begin with a well-crafted pitch letter (we'll cover that in future issues!).

However, no matter how enticing the pitch letter, in most instances you will seal the publicity deal on the follow-up phone call. This is your chance to build rapport with the reporter and really razzle-dazzle him or her on your idea.

Your phone skills will mean the difference between life and death when attempting to convince a reporter to cover your product, service or company. So before you pick up the phone and place that call, consider the following tips for successful phone pitching:

Respect the reporter's time.
Reporters work on tight deadlines and, depending on the publication, these deadlines fall on different days and different times of the day. Staff at a monthly publication will most likely undergo one week each month when they are "putting the next issue to bed" and are working under tremendous pressure. In contrast, reporters at weekly publications are generally most stressed on the days leading up to their weekly deadline. Dailies have particular times each day, usually in the late afternoon, when deadlines are looming and reporters are busiest.

Before phoning a reporter or editor, first call the main number of the publication and enquire as to its deadlines. Then, avoid calling during those times.

Even when you have determined an ideal time to call, always start your conversation with, "Hello, my name is Jane Smith and I am from XYZ Company (substitute your name and company!). I have been studying your recent articles and I have a story idea I really think will interest you. Is this a convenient time for you to talk?" Most of the time the response will be "yes," but if it isn't, respect the reporter's wishes and ask when would be a good time to call back.

Be brief.
If the reporter does give you their time, don't blow your chance with a rambling, unfocused pitch. Be concise and to the point. You should be able to deliver a solid overview of your story idea in 30 seconds or less. Practice your delivery several times prior to placing your call so you have it down pat. It's also a good idea to have your written pitch (which you should have already sent them) in front of you, to serve as a "cheat sheet."

Be enthusiastic.
If you're not excited about your story idea, how do you expect the reporter to respond? Deliver your pitch clearly and with conviction, and be sure to sound energetic and enthused. Remember: the way in which an idea is delivered is as important as the idea itself. Engage your audience (the reporter) with a charismatic delivery and you will go a long way toward exciting him or her about your idea.

Never say you are calling to check to see if they received your pitch.
This is a huge irritant to reporters. Imagine if every time someone sent you an e-mail or letter they called and asked if you received it. Don't even mention your written pitch until you already have a phone dialogue going and you sense that the reporter is interested. Then at the right time you might say something like, "By the way, I did send you a more detailed written pitch on this idea on September 3rd, but if you don't have it I'd be happy to re-send it."

Show some humor.
Believe it or not, reporters are people, too. They have good days and bad days, marital spats and trouble with their kids. And as much as we'd like to think that their personal issues will not influence they way they respond to our story ideas, we know that of course they will. I have found that a universal trait is that we all respond positively to humor (that which is in good taste, of course).

I know it can be a scary prospect to pick up the phone and call a journalist, but if you apply these tips you will come across as respectful and professional and greatly increase your chances of obtaining positive publicity coverage.

© 2005, Diana Laverdure. All Right Reserved.

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