Follow-up calls are an essential public relations tactic to earn media coverage for your company or your clients. Although the majority of reporters prefer email, connecting with them via phone is the best way to sell your story idea and determine whether a journalist is interested in covering it.
Follow these four tips to get the most out of your time on the phone with the media.
Never ask if the reporter got your news release
Chances are likely they received your release, read it and took an appropriate action for whether or not they want to cover the story. Asking reporters whether they received your release irks them because it wastes their time.
Instead of asking if they read your release, jump straight into your story idea with the most compelling news angle for that publication’s audience. This shows the reporter you are well-versed in the topic and publication you’re pitching, and you value their time on the phone.
Always ask if it’s a good time to talk
This has been the best piece of advice I’ve received so far in my career. Starting your call with a reporter by asking whether it’s an OK time to talk shows you respect their time and understand the impending deadlines that plague reporters. Most of the time when you ask this, reporters will say it’s a good time to talk. Sometimes, they’ll tell you they’re on deadline, in which case you can ask when would be a better time to call back.
Give the reporter new information
Given the likelihood that a reporter is familiar with your news release and email pitch, make sure to offer new information when talking with reporters on the phone or leaving voicemails. Your updated pitch doesn’t have to be entirely new, but it does need to be revamped with additional information.
When I follow up with reporters, I have all of the story facts right in front of me. I give journalists the nut graph, then supplement the story idea with supporting facts that hammer home the newsworthy angle. I always do a quick Google search on each journalist I pitch to find any recent articles or related story coverage. This info is great for tailoring pitches and showing journalists you’ve done your homework. Then when I’m talking with journalists, I tailor my conversation based on their beat, publication type and verbal cues showing their interest.
Remember to sell the newsworthy angle
It’s up to PR professionals to be experts in what makes a story newsworthy – the timeliness, proximity and prominence that we regularly see in news stories. It’s our job to identify the most newsworthy angle of any media pitch and then explain to the reporter why the story would be a good fit for their audiences.
On Your Next PR Follow-Up Call
Next time you talk with a journalist on the phone, assume they have already read your news release, and start your conversation by asking if it’s an OK time to talk. Then provide new information in addition to your original pitch and explain the newsworthy angle of your story idea. Incorporating these four tips into your phone pitches will give you the best chance of earning media coverage, and it will help you build relationships with reporters.