PR the big question do you phone or email journalists?

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To phone or email? That is the dilemma. Here our team shares its experience

PR the big question do you phone or email journalists? blog

Hi is that the City desk? I have a lovely story about a new tractor that can be driven by a sheep dog…

When you work in public relations your relationship with the media is crucial to your performance. You can be as creative as you like but if you don’t generate coverage for your clients, it is pointless.

Having spent many years at various agencies, our team has had to do its fair share of pitching, using phone and email. One key lesson is that every agency has its own attitude towards phone pitching. Some ask for phone pitching experience and put a massive emphasis on one’s ability to pick up the phone and sell in. On the other hand, others, particularly those with journalism experience understand the pressure journalists face and wouldn’t dream of bombarding them with calls. And then there is the individual’s preference – some prefer to get everything detailed on email, while others dread the silence you get from email pitches!

One of our team recalls working as an intern and phoning journalists that she didn’t know from four pages of media lists downloaded from Gorkana. She sometimes wonders how this experience hasn’t left her scarred for life, particularly when the phone is picked up by a weary and aggressive journalist! However, once in a while, there was ‘the match’ that resulted in decent coverage making the whole experience bearable.

Specialising in fintech PR, we talk to the same people all the time and that gives us the advantage of knowing the stories they are interested in, so selling in doesn’t feel like cold calling – but exchange of services. However, even within this niche sector most journalists claim they don’t want to be bothered on the phone.

Taking that on board, we know to be careful with who we are calling, there is more success to be had in placing an article when you know the journalist and have researched and learned all about them, than just hoping for the best.

So who and when do you call?
Taking our own experience and other PR pros that contributed to Sam’s debate on CIPR’s LinkedIn group discussion, we have compiled some steps that can help you establish that ‘phone relationship’ with your journalist.

  1. Understand journalists are always on a deadline and get to know their deadline. Better yet, plan in advance and look at their editorial calendar for the year ahead.
  2. What is your story? Does it match their criteria? Nothing annoys journalists more than PRs that pitch the wrong stories. Preparing a few points in advance helps with staying on track!
  3. Be polite! Ask if they have time to talk to you and keep it brief, just enough for you to be able to gauge their interest. If they show interest, you can follow up if not, be respectful and don’t bother them again.
  4. Never ever waffle! A hard learnt lesson! Know your story, and exactly what you want to say and why you are calling them and not another journalist.
  5. Have an email pitch ready to send as soon as you come off the phone. Email will always fill in the details you missed out.

Having said that, it is important to know everyone is different and should be treated accordingly so keep notes and follow through.