The Age of Online Communication: To Call or Not To Call?

With the New Year, the Kaizen PR team has recently been A/B testing different approaches to outreach. From calling journalists to tweeting follow-ups, it’s been a nerve-racking yet insightful start.

As previously mentioned in my other blog posts, outreach and digital PR is constantly evolving and reshaping – it won’t ever be a precise science, however, it’s never a bad tactic to learn each process and what works best for you.

A pitching style that’s constantly up for debate and sparked my interest (and fear) was phone pitching, due to the possibility of upfront rejection and absolute stage fright. However, the last few months, I’ve managed to find a process that works best for me while still managing to utilise all the channels available and of course, keeping my contacts happy.

 

THE FACTS BEHIND THE FEAR:

It was recently reported in 2017 Cision State of the Media Report that 12% of journalists rely more in the last year on PR professionals than they did before. While this number is not too extreme, it was also reported that 63% of journalist’s reliance had not changed at all during the last year and that only 5% mentioned that they didn’t work at all with PR professionals.

This provides reassurance that the majority of journalists are always open to pitches and hearing new stories within reason, for example, if it’s within their niche.

Now while the report also stated that email pitches were the most successful and desired form of contact, and yes, I do agree with this from time to time, I do believe that calling a journalist can also help if the following criteria apply:

  • Pre-Existing Relationships – If you have a pre-existing relationship with a journalist, it is always best to have a quick call with them, as the trust has been formally established before and they are more responsive to spending a few minutes listening.
  • Quick Follow Ups and Feedback – I’ve found that either sending an email and calling a few hours later or even giving it a day, can sometimes jolt a journalist’s memory or provide a new angle. If you also need quick feedback on a piece, even their tone of voice and response can speak volumes.
    • This will also allow you to think on your feet and if possible, tailor the story according to their feedback with new information or data.
  • Breaking News and Exclusives – If your client is releasing an in-depth report and time is of the essence, it’s always important to make a short calling prospect list and get the story out quickly.
  • Reaching New Contacts – The various news desks are also any PR’s secret weapon when creating new relationships. If you are unsure of the correct journalist, the news desks are always able to connect you to someone that may be potentially interested and more willing to listen to your pitch. News desks themselves are also a great way to make a contact at a new publication, as they’re used to hearing story pitches. The person who takes your call could go on to be a very valuable contact!

Bear in mind, though, that it is also important to understand that the time of day that you call can hinder their response or even change the mood – stay away from first thing Monday, as well as just after lunch, as this is when most meetings and slow starts occur. 

BASICS TO PHONE PITCHING:

In securing your relationships and keeping your contacts happy, make sure that full preparation and homework has been followed through. Here are just a few ways you can be fully prepared:

1. Find the correct journalist and publications that would be interested in your content. Also, ensure you have read a few of their recent articles to make sure you understand the angle they usually place emphasis on.
– This will definitely deter the journalist from feeling annoyed or rushed if it is potentially a strong story for their publication (their interest is key).

2. Flesh out different angles as well as some stand-by angles that could possibly help you during your call pitching.

3. Go through the piece and write out a few potential questions you might initially have. When breaking down the data and finding the answers, you will be able to establish a list of backup information that might help on the call.

4. If following up, never mention that you’re following up. Rather take the approach of explaining the story and add new elements to it that they may not have heard of before. You will 100% lose the journalist’s attention with the information they’ve already seen or heard. A great opening gambit could be ‘I wondered if there was any more information I could offer to make this more of a story for you?’ Never ask ‘have you seen my press release?’

While every PR or journalist will be different and have their own preferences, understanding your content and contacts will never let you down in outreach. One of the biggest takeaways from my experiences over the last few weeks would definitely take time to follow these steps and familiarise yourself with your contacts, and never fear giving a different approach a try!

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