Thanks to the Internet making things more accessible with email and social media, the phone is pretty much a paperweight for your client’s folders. And I get it: You don’t have to hear the gruff and grizzle of a reporter on the other end of the line telling you to piss off, or some such.
That said, the phone call is still one of the most important tools in any flack’s arsenal. For anything from a follow-up to a lunch appointment, never underestimate the power of speaking to someone on the phone.
Now, some PR professionals are making it very easy for our favorite journalists to never pick up a phone call again. Ever. Why? Here are 5 phone practices we can use to ensure that the phone pitch doesn’t vanish.
1. Stop calling to “follow-up” on an email pitch. Statistics have shown that the average journalist — not the morning anchor, the executive producer, or even the assignment desk editor — gets approximately 1,000 pieces of communication each day. Do you really think your call following a pitch you sent yesterday is going to reach a reporter with interest? Probably not. We all hated having nothing at our disposal beyond the phone call. MEMO to all PR types: Give it a rest, give the reporter some time, and give your pitch a chance to work and be noticed.
2. Stop writing crappy email pitches. Arguably, the number one reason your pitch isn’t earning the call back or a return email is because your original pitch…well, let’s see…it sucked. Does your pitch share a story? Does the story create news? Does that “news” offer something that is truly new, different, or significant? In other words, are you talking about an award or some aspect of your industry that is already happening? Don’t worry about the call back. You are being ignored. Calling back just makes it worse.
3. Stop assuming you caught a reporter at the right time. Nine times out of 10 when you call a reporter and catch them on the line, it’s because they are eating lunch at their desk or hiding in their cube hoping to slip away from the editor. As soon as someone picks up the phone, the first question out of your mouth should be “Is now a good time?” or “Can I have only a couple of minutes to ask you a question about my client?” Every time that question is not posed, you set PR back a few years. Be respectful and be aware.
4. Stop reading a script. If you have to practice or rehearse, please do it. However, for the love of Edward Bernays, Harold Burson, Al Golin, and Daniel Edelman, stop reading! If your client is really that interesting, and their product or service is even more interesting, then your monotonous recitation won’t even come close to helping them out. If you read, you are focused on grammar. If you just talk, you are focused on the pitch. Also: if you are reading, you certainly aren’t listening. Think about it.
5. Stop leaving full pitches on voice mail. First of all, your voice mail is possibly deleted as soon as you say “Hey there” so there’s that. Secondly, if you make it past your salutation, count to 30. If you haven’t hung up by then, your voice mail will get deleted for certain. You wouldn’t think two minutes is that long but when listening to a pitch on voice mail, it is an eternity. Keep it simple, folks. Provide the clear call-to-action and give the reporter a definite reason to holler back. Without that incentive, you will be one of many who fall into the “deleted” category.