Phone Calls to Reporters Aren’t Dead

….Successful Media Relations Comes From a Strong Story


phone callSome PR commentators recently have declared that  the telephone is dead as a media relations tool. The digital age, they say, has delivered more effective ways to contact reporters and convince them to cover a story idea.

I say they’re wrong. My proof: Our team’s record of winning placements in outlets ranging from The Wall Street Journal to USA Today to the “Today Show.”

I lead media relations campaigns for clients of all sizes, with audiences ranging from their hometown to the international stage. I also coach our staff and clients about the most successful media relations practices.

Those practices include building relationships with reporters through every available channel:  in person, by phone, and through email and social channels. In my experience, how you frame your story is far more important than the channel you use to pitch it.

Reporters want stories that are newsworthy, carry impact, contain strong human- interest angles and offer visual possibilities. You can convey those elements in an email pitch – or through social media, if that’s the preferred channel for you target reporter.  But emails and social media limit the amount of information you can include. Plus, reporters – like the rest of us – are inundated with so many emails that they don’t open many, let alone read them entirely.

A well-placed phone call can bridge this information gap. Your voice can convey your passion for the story.  You can detail important angles and position the visuals.  There’s also a back-and-forth. A phone conversation allows a PR professional to hear why a reporter may not be interested in a story, and counter with reasons why their audience would care.

Phone conversations also establish personal connections.  I’ve found that reporters I’ve talked to are more receptive to subsequent email pitches.

office phoneKeep these tips in mind for effective phone calls with reporters:

1) Reporters don’t want calls asking whether they got your news release. I agree with the pundits – this kind of routine outreach peeves reporters.

2) When you get through to a reporter on the phone, ask immediately if this is a good time for them to talk. You don’t want to engage with them if they are on a deadline.

3) Get to the point immediately about why the reporter’s audience would care about the story. Ultimately, their job is to convey the impact of news and events on readers, viewers or listeners.

4) Put some passion in your tone. Hearing the excitement in your voice about the story may prompt a reporter to take a second look at the email pitch you sent earlier.

5) Paint the visual with your words. Regardless what media outlet they work for, reporters will want a mental picture of what the story entails. A phone call allows a two-way discussion about visual elements that will help tell the story.

6) Rehearse before you make the call. Just as we train our spokespeople to practice saying their key messages before a media interview, we need to be prepared to effectively frame up our key selling points for the story. Keep in mind, though, you want to be conversational – not rehearsed.

While email and social media may seem less intrusive, the phone call allows a “human conversation,” which is extremely valuable in successful media relations.

So the next time you decide against calling a reporter, remember: You may be letting a media placement slip through your fingers.

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