Are you still phoning in your pitches? Do you cold call to try and get a journalist’s attention? Or are you one of the ones who is scared to use the phone at all?
One of the most taboo ways of pitching today is via telephone. What was once the only real-time way of communicating with journalists is now often considered to be in bad form. With the advent of social media, a plethora of new mediums have been leveraged for these efforts. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and even Instagram have become new ways for PR folks to pitch the media.
With that being said, some feel that the phone is all but dead. However, I venture to say that there IS a time and a place to pick up the phone and make that call. There are five questions you should ask yourself before doing so:
1. Is there a disclaimer about calling this party?
First and foremost, have the common courtesy to do your homework before making a call to a journalist. If his/her Twitter or online bio says “Do Not Call Me” or “Phone Calls: No,” your journey down this particular yellow brick road should end right there.
If the journalist at hand does not want to field a phone call from you, then you should respect his/her wishes.
2. Have we met before via email, telephone, or in-person?
Familiarity may help your cause; if you have had the pleasure of working with this journalist in the past, he/she may be much more open to a quick phone call with you. If you have not worked with this person before, you are really taking a shot in the dark and partaking in the dreaded “cold call.”
Given the limited number of times a true cold call has been effective, it really isn’t worth the risk. Try another route.
3. Did the contact respond to my initial outreach?
Any initial interest via email, Twitter, etc. gives you a little bit of “wiggle room” to make that call.
If there’s a phone number attached to the journalist’s email signature or he/she has requested return correspondence, then you would be justified in picking up the phone–but I would highly advise that you give the journalist ample time to respond via the original medium of contact. I personally allow 1-2 days depending how time-sensitive the news is; once that time has passed, I would in some cases resort to making the call as follow up.
4. Does this “news” really warrant a phone call?
This is probably the most important question you can ask yourself before making a call. If you are calling to speak to someone about your company’s 8.4.2 release that adds a red hue to your app, it is NOT worth making that phone call.
If, however, your client just closed a Series C round of funding worth $20M+, then your call is justified. Use your best judgment in each case.
5. Can a call potentially hurt my relationship with the contact?
Finally, consider the relationship you have with this particular journalist.
Even if you satisfy all the above criteria, you ultimately need to think about how this short-term interaction will affect your long-term relationship. If this is a reach, and you are only looking to make contact in order to fulfill the expectations of your company or agency, re-think making the call.
If you are providing real value, and you truly believe that the journalist will be interested, go for it.
If all of these questions above are met with positive answers then you should feel comfortable about making that call. Even though the phone has earned a bad rap as a pitching tool, the best PR professionals know how to leverage it at the right time and place.
As long as you can stay concise and communicate effectively, the phone can still be an acceptable medium for correspondence–even in today’s digital age.
Colin Jordan runs media relations and executive comms for Egnyte in San Francisco. He appeared in PR News’ 2014 “30 Under 30″ list of “rising PR stars.” Follow him on Twitter @colinjordan.