When pitching, offer solutions rather than your own needs

Journalists are busy filling air time and column inches; they want to know what magic you can do for them. Identify how you can interest their audience, and go from there.

Back when I was entertainment editor at a metropolitan daily, my phone used to ring several times an hour with calls from publicists. I regarded these calls with about as much enthusiasm as a teenager does for a cloth to dry dishes.

Most of the publicists began the conversation by asking something like, “Did you receive the press release I sent last week?” (Yes, I’m ancient. These incidents were in the 1980s, predating email.) Although I’m a polite person, I always answered: “I receive several hundred pieces of mail a day. If you sent it to me, it’s probably sitting in my in-basket.”

The retort was not only true, but it also usually silenced the PR agents. This meant I was able to get back to my real job—supervising a large and talented group of reporters and filling my section of the broadsheet paper with interesting stories.

In addition to the regular callers, there were also a few PR professionals. How I loved talking to them. Instead of telling me their woes—and outlining what they demanded of me—they thought to reframe the issue. They anticipated my problems, and, best of all, they came up with solutions.

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