The Beginner’s Guide to Selling-In

This is a guest post by Angus Wood, assistant account executive at Citypress.

This is a guest post by Angus Wood, assistant account executive at Citypress.

Selling-in is a tough, time-consuming and sometimes disheartening job, but it’s a vital part of the PR process. Your press release may be informative and original, but if you can’t communicate it to the media effectively then it will come to nothing. I sold in my first story over a year ago, and here are six of the most important lessons I’ve learned since then.

1. Don’t underprepare, but don’t overprepare either.

It’s really important to get straight to the point in your pitch. Journalists are busy people, and they got a lot of calls every day. If you waffle, they’ll quickly lose interest. Have the first few lines of your pitch prepared in your head so that you can confidently launch straight into it. You also need to know your story, and your client, inside out. If the journalist hits you with a question and you don’t know the answer, or you sound unsure, it will seriously damage your chances of getting coverage.

But don’t sound too polished. If you read from a script, you’ll sound monotonous and the journalist will quickly pick up on it. Stay flexible and responsive, and don’t be afraid to have a proper, personable conversation with the journalist if they’re willing.

2. Research, research, research.

The more you put in, the more you will get out – it’s as simple as that. Targeting a smaller group of carefully selected journalists is likely to yield better results than scattergun pitching to a larger group. Take a look at recent articles the publications have written on your topic and try to contact the reporter who wrote it, rather than their editor. Mention their recent articles, to help persuade them that it’s a topic they’re interested in.

3. Pay absolute attention to detail.

When you send over your press release, make sure you spell the journalist’s name, and the name of their publication, correctly. If your release is dated, make sure it’s the right date. If it’s regionalised, make sure you’re sending the right version for the region. Check, double-check and triple-check everything before you send it. Yes, it takes time, but ignoring detail is an even bigger waste of time because the journalist will reject it, and you may as well have not sent it.

If you think these details don’t matter, or that they’re too obvious to bother with, look at the Twitter account @SmugJourno. It retweets irate journalists who complain about PRs making glaring errors, like starting the press release with ‘Hi [first name]’ or making it obvious that parts of the email have been copied and pasted because of a variation in fonts. The most shocking thing is how often it happens.

The account accuses journalists of being smug, but most journalists tend to get between 100 and 400 press releases per day, depending on their seniority and where they work. Imagine receiving that, every day and still having tolerance for amateurish mistakes. You wouldn’t. That’s not smug, it’s just self-preservation.

4. Listen to the feedback.

Try to find out why they aren’t interested in your story, and keep this in mind for when you phone that journalist or publication again in the future. Some will be too busy, but many will be willing to offer their thoughts.

5. Know when to quit.

You want to be persuasive, but you don’t want to be annoying and sour your media relationships. If you’ve pitched every angle, every statistic, every quote or spokesperson available to you and the journalist still says no, accept it. Obviously, you want to do the best that you can for your client, but remember to think long-term – pushing too hard will result in an angry journalist, who won’t want to write about your client in the future. Some journalists will even block your phone number and email address if they don’t like your approach, and the long-term damage that can result from that outweighs the possible gains.