I have a confession that may sound a little silly. I suffer from pitch follow-up anxiety. Is it as prominent as it was when I first began my career? Not at all! I’ve certainly grown as a professional since my very first media pitch. But, I still get the familiar feeling of awareness and butterflies when I have to call a reporter to follow up on a pitch I’ve sent via email or a previous phone call. Laugh all you want, but the struggle is real for many PR pros across the board. 😉
Following up with reporters is a necessary evil in our business. Yes, I know what the media big dogs say about phone calls and following up on pitches. (And I disagree, but I digress…) At some point, “bothering” a reporter is something we all have to do in the PR world, especially when it’s an amazing angle! When we do catch them on the phone or receive a response to follow up, nine times out of 10 their nonresponse was not due to disinterest. They simply had not seen the email (among the hundreds they receive in a day) or listened to my phone message about our idea. Then, we’re golden!
So, how can I help you move past your pitch follow-up anxiety? Remember four things: build, organize, prepare and move on.
Mainly for all the newbies out there, part of the key to pitching success is in the relationship you build with reporters. So, on day one of the job, send an introduction to the reporters with whom you’ll interact with most. Short, sweet, to the point – not asking for anything. Similarly, if you have a new client, use that as an opportunity to touch base with the business reporter for your daily paper or introduce yourself to a new beat writer. And, don’t forget to read and watch the news daily. Build rapport with media by complimenting their writing or engaging with them on social media.
Remember that old saying that the mistakes of a few can ruin things for the many? Well, in the PR world nothing rings truer when it comes to the relationship between PR folks and reporters. Sadly, it’s the people who don’t take time to research their audience who have made reporters a bit less likely to be friendly when a PR representative comes calling. So, whether you’re pitching reporters via email or over the phone, make sure you are organized and that your pitch is perfect from the start. Do your research on that reporter to ensure you’re sending to the right person. Make sure everything makes sense, is well written and timely, and that your sources are accessible in case of fast turnaround for interview requests. Why? The more polished your pitch, the more comfortable you’ll feel when making that call. And, the more spot-on you are in whom you’re targeting, the better the response you’ll get from your reporter.
Before you ever call a reporter, you should prepare. Practice your 10-second intro or voicemail message. You don’t have to have a script, per say, but know what you want to say so you don’t trip over your words or ramble. (I have done this before; it wasn’t pretty.) Know the best time to call that reporter – don’t call an hour before deadline and expect a warm response. Be cognizant and respectful of their time. If they do answer the phone, ask if now is a good time for a quick chat regarding a pitch you sent yesterday. Be ready to answer their questions (know the topic you’re pitching), and when possible, have times already in hand to set up an interview with your client on the spot.
So, that reporter you called hung up in your face or turned down your story idea. Or, maybe you mistakenly pitched Soap Opera Digest a story about your new technology client. It’s OK! As I learned in my previous nonprofit career, the worst thing a person can ever say to your request is “no.” Does it hurt your ego? Sure. Does it slightly deflate your excitement for a story idea? Perhaps. Does it mean you should quit trying? No! Never let a bad follow-up experience jade your next attempt at pitching media. That is just one person at one publication who may simply be having a bad day for all you know. I promise there’s at least one other reporter at the same outlet or a different one who may be receptive. Move on and keep trying!
Do you have tips for getting past pitch follow-up anxiety? Share!