Tons of articles and guidelines from colleagues and managers offer advice on how to pitch to media outlets.
What about the steps you ought to take in preparation?
Here are a few things you should do before grabbing the phone to make that pitch:
1. Mentally pitch.
As publicists, we’re never going to know the ins and outs of our clients’ businesses as deeply as they do, but we ought to know the selling points in a way that will connect with journalists. So, I have that phone call in my head before I ever pick up the phone.
Can I explain this clearly and succinctly? Am I pronouncing technical words properly? If I heard someone say this to me, would it make any sense? Can I explain if they ask, “What does word X mean?”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve mentally pitched stories and thought, “You are not ready to get on the phone.” I’ll get halfway through my pitch in my head and forget the crucial next portion. I re-read key documents and go over the pitch until I have it down pat.
2. Prepare for objections.
Part of my mental pitching is thinking about what a journalist or producer is going to object to. How is this different from AirBnB? Why wouldn’t I just call Uber? Wouldn’t this be a serious health hazard?
Whatever their objections might be, anticipate them and be prepared.
I’ll go through my pitch and think about as many objections as I can and do my best to have answers. This sounds basic, but journalists have many accounts of getting calls from PR folks who were not remotely prepared to pitch a certain story.
Even if you’ve prepared, don’t panic if you don’t have all the answers. There’s no harm in saying, “I don’t know off the top of my head, but I’ll get that information for you.” The journalist just wants the facts; it’s not the end of the world if you don’t have everything at your fingertips.
3. Consider the timing.
Look at the calendar, and look at the clock.
Don’t call a newspaper reporter at 4:30 p.m. their time. Why not? There is a decent chance that reporter is on deadline, unless it’s a weekly community paper.
Are you pitching a producer at a cable news network? Fine, but you better check to see what time that show airs. If it airs at 3 p.m. and you call at 2:30, they are scrambling to put their show together. That producer will not be thrilled, I promise. A good rule of thumb is to call about 15 to 30 minutes after the show ends.
A co-founder of Large Media, Micah Warren has been a public relations strategist for more than 15 years. A version of this article first appeared on Muck Rack, a service that enables you to find journalists to pitch, build media lists, get press alerts and create coverage reports with social media data.