Have you ever heard the saying, “A smile can be heard over the phone”?
It rings true, but when it comes to pitching stories over the phone (call-downs), you’ll need more than just a grin to be heard.
Pitching a story, whether in person, via email or over the phone, should be a very well thought-out process. A good PR professional knows that reporters work on deadlines and have no time to waste. In light of this, if a PR pitch is unclear, confusing, too long, unstructured, filled with typos or any other careless efforts, the reporter won’t give you the time of day – even if it’s the best story ever told – it’s all about the pitch.
One of my dearest mentors once told me, “Each word should be intentional.” That’s something that is always in the back of my mind while I am pitching.
The best way to get your pitch heard is to be strategic about the process.
Here five tips to keep in mind when you are faced with the challenge of call-downs.
1. Script it and warm up. Have a plan and be organized by developing an outline of what you will say, whether that’s with a script or bullet points. Be prepared with the materials you’ll need, such as talking points, the press release if you have one, or other key messages.
2. Start with who you are and why you’re calling. Simply tell them your name, what company you work for and the nature of the call. For example, “Hi Steve, my name is Alice and I’m with Communiqué PR. I have a story that I think will interest you. Do you have a moment?” Simple, clear and to the point.
3. Brevity is crucial. If you are leaving a voice mail, the entire call should be under a minute from the moment you start talking to the moment you hang up. In my experience, it is best to keep the actual pitch really short if you have the reporter on the phone. In that case, I recommend about 30-45 seconds of pitching time.
4. Offer a resource and story angle the reporter could use. You should have something to give the reporter, whether that’s a press release, a briefing or exclusive news. Also, it’s your job to enlighten them as to how and why it relates to their beat.
5. Anticipate questions and embrace rejection. Have a strong head on your shoulders and don’t take anything personally, especially in PR. Be strategic and have answers to questions you might be asked and if a reporter hangs up on you, move on.
Before you start calling reporters, make sure you are well prepared with a plan, a script, prepared questions and all the materials you may need. The call should last about a minute. Once you are near the end of the call, be sure to always, always thank the reporter for his or her time. And though this may be obvious, make sure you end the call with your name and contact information.
Don’t forget your dashing smile, and happy pitching.
Alice Espana is a strategist at Seattle-based Communiqué Public Relations. A version of this article originally appeared on the Communiqué blog.