How to Pitch Your Press Release Over the Phone
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Phone pitching is one of the most effective strategies for getting press coverage.
In one phone call you can:
• Convince a reporter to write a news article or review.
• Determine what action the reporter will take.
• Build rapport that will help you in the future.
Calling reporters can also be the hardest part of a publicity person’s job. Many people dread talking to people they don’t know. They also fear the possibility of rejection. Even experienced publicity people feel this way.
The best way to overcome fear is to be prepared. For example, by getting to know the reporters who cover your industry and developing a rapport with them, you can minimize your fear of contacting them by phone. By learning about the publication, you can talk to reporters with confidence. By targeting your audience carefully and focusing your message, you can reduce the likelihood of rejection. (If you give the reporters what they need, you will get what you need more often.) As always, by practicing your pitch with a colleague, you can feel more comfortable talking with reporters and more confident that you’re presenting your product effectively.
When contacting reporters, keep in mind that they hate being asked “Did you get my press release?” They get so many press releases they can’t possibly remember any one release. A better strategy is to start with a fresh pitch. Tell your story quickly and clearly. You won’t put them in the embarrassing position of saying they don’t remember. When they hear what you have to say, you may well spark their memory, allowing them to say “Oh, yes. I remember reading about that.” You’ve just won reinforcement in their mind, and increased the chances of them remembering you and your product in the future.
Follow these guidelines when calling reporters
• Know your product. Be prepared to answer questions or refer the reporter to the right person. Review your press kit and other materials. Know what you’ll be offering to send.
• Know the magazine. Read several issues. Know the themes they focus on, and the readers they write to.
• Know what you are going to say, and why, before you call, so you don’t waste the reporter’s time. Practice your pitch on the phone by talking to a colleague in another office.
• Always introduce yourself, your company and your product; never assume the reporter remembers you.
• Ask the reporter if he or she has time to talk; if not, arrange a time to
• After you have succinctly introduced yourself and the purpose of your call, give the reporter an opportunity to ask questions or direct you to someone else. Hold off launching your pitch until the reporter asks for more detailed information, and never ask if they received your press release.
• Be cooperative. Realize that reporters know their publication, its readers, and what materials are appropriate, and avoid arguing with them. The reporter you argue with will remember you – in a negative light.
• Be timely. For weeklies, call Monday through Wednesday since deadlines are usually Thursday and Friday. Pitch a daily newspaper in the morning, well before their deadline. Monthly magazines are busiest during the second week of the month, so time your call accordingly.
• Document your conversation. Be sure to keep notes on your calls so you can remember what was discussed, what information and/or materials were promised and what the due dates are.
When reporters are not in the office, leave a detailed message on their voice mail service. Although some people are put off by voice mail, what better way to have your message delivered to the reporters than by your own voice? Tell them everything you would have told them had you reached them personally. Be sure to leave your phone number. When you’re leaving a lengthy message, it doesn’t hurt to leave your number once at the beginning of the message and again at the end. Also, say your name and number slowly so reporters can write it down easily and correctly. If they are interested, they will call you.
If the reporter doesn’t have a voice mail system, do not leave a detailed message with someone else. There simply isn’t enough room on a “While You Were Out” message pad to tell your whole story. To increase the chances of your call being returned, leave the most important information in as few words as possible. Leave your message as if it were a headline: New Product; Appointment for Press Tour; or Arrange Demo at Convention.
Agency representatives should leave their client’s name, not the agency’s name. You will make a better impression by saying Scott Daniels of Widget World , than you will saying Scott Daniels of ABC Public Relations. The reporter may be interested in Widget World, but can’t begin to imagine what ABC Public Relations wants to talk to them about.
Here’s a sample of a 30-second phone pitch
Our purpose is to arrange a meeting with a reviewer.
You: Hello, Bill. This is Scott Daniels calling about Widget World.
Do you have 30 seconds to hear about our newest product?
You: We’re introducing the Widget Utilities. It’s a Swiss Army Knife collection of utilities that enhance
the performance of widgets.
You: You’re covering utilities in the December issue, aren’t you?
Reporter: Yes. In fact, John Smith should see this, too.
You: We can be at your office next Monday with a demo. Which is better, 10 or 11 a.m.?
Reporter: 10 a.m. looks good.
You: Great! You’ll meet with John Cole, the Vice President of Widget World. We’ll bring our demo and give you a copy of the product to review. What questions can I answer right now?
Reporter: Well, I am interested in learning how your product compares to the new ZEUS product?
You: I’m not sure about their new utilities. Can I check with one of the technicians and get back to you
on that one?
You: Great. I’ll have that information for you when I see you next Monday at 10.
The success you experience will be tied directly to your preparation and information. If you know your product, the reporters, their audience and your message, you will greatly enhance your chances of having your product reviewed.