Reporters and editors often say they prefer to be pitched via email as opposed to “annoying phone calls.”
Here’s why: Many public relations professionals simply don’t know how to pitch by phone.
It’s probably not their fault. I’d wager that their manager or mentor wasn’t properly trained. It’s a vicious cycle.
On behalf of PR pros everywhere, here’s a message for journalists:
Phone pitching is our best bet for creating a relationship with you—and securing coverage for our clients. Although you might prefer email, I don’t. If I had a nickel for every unreturned pitch I sent your way, I’d be typing this article on my iPad on my yacht.
Journalists continually complain about their flooded inboxes and emails going right to their junk folder. I understand, but I could use more clarification on how I can prevent my pitches from getting lost in all of that.
Here’s how PR pros can ease some of their fears of the phone:
1. Be authentic.
Authenticity is a fundamental relationship building block. Sometimes that concept gets lost in the pitching process.
It’s important to be yourself. That may sound like the advice that parents give their 14-year-old son asking a girl to the school dance, but it’s true.
I won’t tell you to pitch exactly as I do. Don’t heed my advice if you’re not comfortable with it. I have an exceedingly conversational tone when I converse with journalists; it works for me. I understand that not everyone is as outgoing and jovial. Don’t fret, though; you can still have success.
Find your own voice. Journalists are people, too. They might be looking at the clock just like you. (We’ve all done it.) They might be irritated that Steve keeps taking their sodas from the break room. Don’t fear them; embrace human nature, and try to relate to them.
2. Respect their time.
Ask this magic question the next time you get a reporter on the phone. It’s the absolute key to not sounding annoying:
“This is [insert your name] with [insert your company or organization], do you have a second?”
Right off the bat you’ve shown respect for their time. Poll 100 journalists and ask them how often they get phone calls that start with a name and a company and then go right into a scripted pitch. Who doesn’t love hearing a scripted pitch?
Asking that question sets you apart from the other obnoxious PR pros who can’t wait to blather on about their “client’s vision.”
I always get an immediate response with how to proceed, and then I follow up accordingly.
3. Think of telemarketers.
Improve your phone pitching skills by putting yourself in a journalist’s shoes.
Do that by considering a relatable situation: getting called by a telemarketer out of the blue.
Which ones are you most receptive to? Do you like it when someone calls and tells you their name and company and then proceeds to read (poorly) from some script? If the answer is no, then why would you do that to a reporter?
Are you more receptive to the people who ask if you have a moment to speak and then get right to how what they are selling could benefit you? I know I am. I already told them I have a second and that I’ll listen, and they told me right away that they can cut my cable bill in half.
I’ll listen to that. I may not buy it, but I’ll give you a few moments to tell me how you can save me money.
Take a similar approach when pitching. In most cases they’ll take a minute to hear whether you’ve got something that would make their editors happy.
A PR pro’s prowess goes beyond his Rolodex. Anyone can acquire contacts, but what good can they do if people don’t like you enough to return your calls?
Be respectful, and be yourself; you’ll be surprised how receptive journalists can be to phone calls.
Micah Warren is a PR pro and co-founder of Large Media. A version of this article originally 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.