Our business is about relationships. In order to foster the strongest relationships possible, you want to be sure to always communicate with efficiency and strategy and never utter the following statements:
1. “Did you get my press release?” As a current PR pro and former news anchor, I think I can speak for almost every person in the media and say that there are few things more annoying than the dreaded “Did you get my press release?” phone call. Nothing in the world of PR guarantees an immediate hang-up quite like this question. If you sent it, chances are good that they got it. They’ll let you know if they are interested. If an outlet chooses not to run your story, picking up the phone and nagging them is not going to persuade them to change their decision.
2. “What types of articles do you run?” Watch and listen before pitching. Educate yourself about the media outlet and that particular reporter’s stories before pitching them. Your story angle, pitch, and everything you do relating to your media outreach should be customized, and that includes the timing of your outreach. Know the schedule for editorial meetings and deadlines and be respectful of it. If you want the media to take the time to read and fully consider your pitch, show them that you’ve taken the time to read and understand their work.
3. “This is a perfect fit for you.” When you say this, a reporter hears one of two negative things: desperation or bossiness. They might suspect that the story isn’t a perfect fit for anyone because you’re pushing too hard, or you could come across as a know-it-all. There are always internal pressures, personal preferences, and other planned stories to consider. Only the contact you are pitching knows how your idea fits into their big picture. Let them decide whether it’s a “perfect fit.”
4. “You’ll have to be quick; I don’t have much time” Understand the time involved in a reporter’s story preparation. For example, it can take several hours on multiple days for a profile piece that involves an in-depth interview and a photo shoot. Be sure that as a PR person you understand the commitment level of what you’re pitching and that you can deliver if the media is interested. You can often save time by understanding the reporter’s multimedia needs beforehand and mapping out photo or video ideas—or you can directly supply these assets from the start.
If you take this advice to heart, I guarantee that you’ll find a much more receptive news media audience. There is a fine line between nagging and a friendly check-in that no PR pro should ever cross.
If you’re worried that a story didn’t get the results you expected, try pitching it in a different way. What may seem like a dead end can actually be an excellent motivator to get more creative with your conversations with the news media.
Just be sure to never let any of the aforementioned questions or statements slip out. You’re better than that.
Lisa Arledge Powell is the president of MediaSource, a multimedia production and media relations company that works with hospitals, health care organizations, and other brands to get their message to the masses. A version of this article first appeared on Ragan.com in December 2012.