Making the Pitch
So, you have a story do you? Wind up, and get ready to make your pitch.
First, you've got to find out who the appropriate editor or writer is at the media you are attempting to land. This may be as simple as hitting an email link at the bottom of a blog, or it could be quite complicated finding out who makes the decision for booking guests on the local station's morning news program.
Your best bet, believe it or not, is usually the receptionist. After all, they usually ask "How can I direct your call?", so be honest and tell them what you are trying to accomplish.
Here are some "etiquette" secrets that can help you effectively work with journalists in generating bushels of free press.....
- Don't call to "see if they got your release." Journalists hate this. Folks send out mass mailings and then call to see if the release made it there. If you really want to get a story in the paper, call first to pitch your story and then follow up with your release, photos, etc.
- Plan your call around their deadlines. Most papers are morning editions. Thus, journalists' deadlines range from 2 p.m. local time and on. Don't call during this time! The best time to reach a newspaper journalist: 10 a.m. to noon local time.
- Don't start pitching right away! If you get Joan Smith on the phone, don't just dive into your pitch. This is rude, as Joan may be on the other line, working on a story, entertaining guests or who knows what else. Start by saying something like, "Hi Ms. Smith, my name's Bill Jones and I have a story suggestion you might find interesting. Is this a good time for you?" Joan will reply "yes"--which is a green light to start your pitch, or "no"-- to which you reply, "When would be a good time to call you back?" Your courtesy will be greatly appreciated by the journalist...which can only help your chances.
- Pitch to the voice mail. It's fine to pitch your story to the reporter's voice mail. Keep it very short and end the message with your phone number. If you don't hear back, try again until you get the actual reporter or editor on the phone.
- Don't read from a script! The bane of many journalists' existences are 22-year-olds sitting in cubicles in big PR firms reading pitches off a sheet of paper. If you've ever been called by a telemarketer doing the same thing, you know how annoying it can be. Practice your pitch so that it seems natural and spontaneous.
- Give them a story, not an advertisement. The media does not exist to give you publicity. They exist to provide readers with interesting stories. Your job is to give the journalist what he or she wants, while getting the free exposure. Make your pitch newsy, exciting and relevant.
- Follow up immediately. If she's interested, Joan Smith will ask for more information. Be sure you have a press kit (including news release and photo) ready to send . Send it out via priority mail, and write "Requested Information" below the address.
- Call again. Now it's appropriate to call to see if Joan's received your stuff...after all, unlike a mass-mailed release, she asked for it! Ask if she's had a chance to look through it, and what she thinks. If she likes what she sees, you're about to get some very valuable free publicity!