When pitching the media, position yourself as a resource instead of a sales force. This is particularly important to keep in mind when calling producers or editors to follow up on a PR pitch. Go in with a bullying, used car salesman approach and you’ve already lost the battle. From the media’s perspective, they don’t need you and if you push them, they will make that absolutely clear. You need to meet their needs in order to meet yours. I knew one business owner who used to call up editors and producers and angrily give them a piece of his mind whenever they ran a piece on one of his competitor’s products. The sad part was that his product was superior to that of his rival, but, because of how he dealt with the media, he was avoided like the plague. No one wanted to do a story on his product, because no one wanted to do a story on him.
Although most members of the media will swear I’m wrong, when launching a public relations campaign, follow-up calls are important. They’re the only way to know that your press release has actually been read. And, just as importantly, by following up, you can find out if the press release did its job and generated interest. If the release didn’t do the trick, you can now add the human touch. Remember, you’re not sealing, you’re offering the media a great story idea. If the response is no, you can offer other angles, but do it lightly and then exit gracefully. Don’t waste your time trying to convince the media why you are right or trying to make a hard sale. Your objective is to meet their needs and not by pitching a product or a service, but by giving them a good, compelling story.
If you are going to make follow-up calls, initially concentrate on your local media. The local press will usually be more receptive to your calls and pitches. Keep your calls brief (three to four minutes maximum) and be polite. Be up and enthusiastic. Don’t spend your time explaining why yours is the best store or product in town, or why they will be missing the story of the century if they don’t use your idea – everyone tells them that. Never beg or berate the media. You’re calling to introduce yourself, make sure they have the information, and ask if they need any other corroborating information. Work on your PR pitch before you call. Do some pitch practicing, even if it’s just with a friend. Record a call and listen to how you sound. Don’t sound intimidated and certainly don’t try to intimidate. Be upbeat and polite. Listen to the editor’s or producer’s feedback. If the person on the other line is rushed, harried, or says no, remember, chances are you caught him or her right in the middle of a story deadline. Don’t push it. Politely say thank you, see if there’s a better time for you to call and hang up.
If the person on the other line starts a dialogue or asks you questions, be open, keep the conversation going, but don’t try to do a sales job. Offer a great, appropriate story idea and position yourself as a resource. Find out if there are any stories they are currently working on that you could help out with. Find out what kind of stories that particular editor or segment producer usually works on.
Your initial follow-up call is to make sure that your information arrived, was seen by the right person, and to introduce yourself. Keep the call short, polite, and very much to the point. Be courteous and quickly get off the phone. It is almost impossible to be effective by simply sending out press releases or media alerts, so calls are important, but be prudent in the calls you make. Without follow-up calls, media placement is often a real crapshoot, yet the wrong kind of follow-ups will knock you out of the game completely. So practice, develop a compelling pitch, study the media outlets you’re going to and make sure your pitch is appropriate. The more you prepare your pitch and your calls the greater your chances are that the media response will be: “that’s a great story idea. Let’s do it.”
Copyright © Anthony Mora 2010
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