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#PR: The Zen of a Successful Pitch
By: Gerard E. Mayers
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Len Stein, one of my colleagues here at Talent Zoo, recently authored a very insightful piece on why us flacks should not, I repeat, not use the telephone when pitching to journalists. In his article, titled For Better PR Results, Don't Call, he notes:

“Reporters have tough, and underpaid, jobs. They must be creative on tight deadlines. They have to deal with editors as well as manage diverse sources. The telephone is perhaps a reporter’s most important tool and they need an open line. So if you are a serious PR professional, don’t call them.

On the other hand, reporters can call you whenever they feel it necessary, and happy day when they do, as the likelihood of a story resulting is high. And, if they ask you to call them with certain answers or information, be sure you do so, and well before their deadline. Other than that, I never call a reporter unsolicited, even if I have an existing relationship. “

I can already hear you saying, “What?!?!?!? Is he crazy? How can I build relationships with journalists and editors if I cannot call them?”

In the first paragraph of his article Sein commented: “If you work for a public relations firm, does your job description entail calling reporters and editors to pitch stories? If you are still using that old-school PR tactic, you’re career is at a dead end — because, aside from ill-informed publicists, journalists' leading complaint is the number of unsolicited phone calls they receive. We now live in a communications environment in which the phone call has become by appointment only.”

In the old days, calling by telephone at judicious times so as not to interrupt deadlines was acceptable. But in today's digitized communications age, deadlines are 24/7; this puts a lot of pressure on journalists and editors.

So what's a flack to do? Stein suggests that we “instead send a brief ... email (with appropriate links). If it’s really a big deal (to your boss or the client) maybe even a second email is warranted in case the reporter missed the first one as he/she scrolled through the several hundred emails that arrive daily.”

When I was more actively working in PR, the position I held at the time required me to communicate with editors and journalists in trade media globally. Even though I did make phone calls, the challenge of different time zones made it easier for me to make contact by way of email and then use the telephone when I had a client story I was sure the media outlet would be interested in.

Stein concluded his article by noting:

“PR people need to embrace this new communications reality in which one needs an appointment to place a call to a reporter, and concentrate on doing a better job of researching, writing, and packaging content to make it easier for reporters to grasp the essence of your story. Then, when a journalist calls, be sure to be prepared with the answers to their questions.”

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About the Author
Gerard E. "Gerry" Mayers writes about PR and other relevant topics for PR professionals. A former PR manager for Sensor Products, Inc. (currently based in Madison, NJ), he lives in Milford, NJ.
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