We’ve all read tons of articles and gotten advice from colleagues and managers on how to pitch the media.
Do this and don’t do that.
Well, this article isn’t about how to pitch the media, but hopefully will be helpful before you pitch the media.
We’ve all done it. You hear about the story angle/pitch and you get all excited and you just want to burn up phone lines and fire off emails and get started. I’ve gotten that way so often in my career that I know I need to consciously pump the brakes, take a breath and think about things for a second.
So, here are a few things you could/should do before grabbing the phone.
I do it every time. Especially when you are dealing with a new client. As publicists, we’re never going to know the ins and outs for our clients’ businesses the way they do. But, we obviously need to know it functionally. We need to know the selling points in a way that will connect with the journalists. So, I have that phone call in my head before I ever pick up the phone.
Can I explain this clearly and succinctly? Am I even pronouncing some of these tech words properly? If I heard someone say this to me, would it make any sense? Can I explain word “X” if they ask, “well, what does X mean?”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve mentally pitched stories and thought, "you are not ready to get on the phone." I’ll get halfway through my pitch in my head and forget the critical next portion. I have to call up documents and re-read them and go over it until I have it down pat.
I remember one time a colleague asked if I started pitching a particular story and I told them that indeed I had. I hadn’t even picked up a phone at that point. But, technically I wasn’t lying because I need those mental reps until I can get on the phone and convey my client’s story accurately and succinctly.
Part of my mental pitching is thinking about what a journalist or producer is going to object to. How is this different than AirBnB? Why wouldn’t I just call Uber? Wouldn’t this be a serious health hazard?
Whatever their objections are, you need to anticipate them and be prepared.
Think like a journalist. Ask yourself the tough questions about your pitch. This is part of mentally pitching. I’ll go through my pitch and think about as many objections as I possibly can and do my best to have answers. This sounds pretty basic, and it is. But, journalists have far too many accounts of getting calls from PR folks who were not remotely prepared to pitch a certain story.
Of course, it’s not always possible to know every objection beforehand as we never know everything that’s going to happen when we get on that phone. In which case, here’s another quick piece of advice: Don’t panic if you don’t have the answers. There is no harm in saying something along the lines of “I don’t know off the top of my head, but I’ll get that information for you.” Don’t lie. Don’t try to make something up. Don’t stumble all over yourself. Relax. The journalist wants the facts; it’s not the end of the world if you don’t have everything at your fingertips.
Preparing for objections is actually a pretty good piece of life advice too. You’re going to need to do it before you ask your wife if you can take a last-minute, weekend road trip to Dallas with your friends because Alex totally scored some Eagles tickets.
You’ve thought things through. You’ve got your pitch down and nailed. That journalist’s phone number is staring at you. It’s taunting you. It’s daring you to pick up the phone. You’re good to go.
Hold on…are you?
Look at the calendar, and look at the clock. I know this sounds like basic advice, but we’ve all done it. You called a newspaper reporter at 4:30 p.m. their time. Why is that a bad idea? There is a fairly decent chance of that reporter being on deadline unless it’s a small community paper outside of Yakima, Washington. Even then.
Are you pitching a producer at a cable news network? Fine, but you better check to see what time their show airs. If they air at 3 p.m. and you call at 2:30? You’ve done the exact opposite of make them happy. They are scrambling to put their show together and you just called to see if CNN would be interested in a story on Midwest cattle futures. That producer will not be thrilled I promise. A good rule of thumb there is to call about 15-30 minutes after the show is over.
What do you do before you pitch? Share!
A co-founder of Large Media, Inc., Micah Warren has been a public relations strategist for more than 15 years. A published writer with an incredible track record of media placements, Micah has gotten his clients in USA Today, Fox Business Network, Bloomberg TV, Inc.com, CNBC.com, The Daily Caller, The NY Times, The NY Post, Esquire, Maxim magazine, ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” ESPN.com , Askmen.com, GQ, BBC, Reuters and many other newspapers, television shows, radio networks, websites and trade publications.
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