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.
Long ago, in a faraway pre-digital galaxy, one could fairly well determine when to call journalists so as to not interrupt deadlines. But with today’s 24/7 news cycle, deadlines are continuous and reporters cover more territory than ever.
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.
So before you dial that phone, instead send a brief follow-up 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.
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.
Len Stein founded Visibility Public Relations to position the full spectrum of creative marketing services companies for industry thought-leadership.
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