PR 101: Phone Pitching…p.s. apparently, I suck at it.

SO…today’s “PR 101” post was going to be something like, “what is PR? Deciding if PR is something you actually want to do” because I find that a lot of interns and students get into PR for the glamour and money and quickly find that there’s little of either (at least, at first) and then they drop out. But I feel like we all know that anyway, and besides something happened today at work: I was forced to do some “on-the-job” training in phone pitching, every PR pro’s nightmare.

It went a little something like this:

Supervisor: “Hey so XXXX client has a summit in XXX on Thursday and we have to call some of the local press and do some phone pitching, okay?”
Me: Umm…okay, I guess I can do that
SPV: You’re comfortable with that, right? OK, we’ll go over it a few times and you’ll get it just fine…
Me: Umm…OK

So me and my supervisor spent about 20 minutes going over phone pitching and the next thing you know, I was on the phone and honey, let me tell you, I learned my first lesson in phone pitching: Learn  to deal with rejection, it WILL happen. I was rejected, the journalist was super nice about it, but he was abrupt and straight to the point and (without knowing it) he taught me my second lesson: When you are phone pitching, keep it relevant: why is this important to the journalist? Will his/hers readers benefit? Do you have a story he/she can use? The journalist basically told me that the event wasn’t relevant to him and that he couldn’t attend. I was devastated for all of 90 seconds and then I got over it, picked up the phone and dialed again. What? That wasn’t enough of a lesson for ya? Okay, okay, I consulted with the pros and here’s some tips for conquering the ever-elusive successful phone pitch:

  • Do the legwork before you even pick up thephone.Want to get a journalists attention? Then know their content, take about a minute to look over their content so you can reference it during the phone conversation, “hi XXXXX, this is Jess from XYZ Communications, I noticed you recently wrote about emerging technologies in the market in your column and I had a great event coming up involving blahbllahblah, is now a good time to talk…?” Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t, but at least it shows you care about their content
  • Keep your personality while remembering why you’re calling. I used to be a phone collector (one of my 12 careers before entering PR…yea, I know) and I hated HATED reading from the script & I often got in trouble for deviating. Luckily, in PR, that’s great! My supervisor encouraged me to be myself and express enthusiasm BUT she emphasized, “remember why you’re calling & hit all your points” which leads me to the next “tip”.
  • Make NOTES. It’s super easy (as I learned today) to lose track  of what you’re saying; you can rehearse and memorize it before you pick up the phone, but once you hear that journalist on the other side: it’s ALL gone. It helps to have some written points in front of you to reference. I tried my first few on the fly, I quickly learned that I needed some typed notes in front of me.
  • Finally: Take it easy! I know nobody likes to be on the phone, and I am not one of those people and even I was nervous when I was left with the phone and the media list. I learned it’s okay to make mistake: just take a deep breath and move on to your next point. And remember this: journalists get calls all the time with story pitches; it’s not like you’re selling them kitchen appliances, this is part of their job, just like it’s part of yours.
  • BONUS: It’s okay to ask for feedback. Sorry, meant to mention this: try and get feedback from the journalist if they say no, ask: why? Is there an angle on this story you might have been interested in? Did I not give you enough information? Is this always a bad time in the week to call? Journalists are generally nice people and they might have some helpful tips for you; always try and get something from each conversation.

That’s all I have for you on phone pitching, because I am generally new at it myself and I’m still learning, but I promise: we’ll learn together and we’ll conquer the phone pitch, together. Want some more reading on this topic? I’ve got you covered:

Beginner’s Guide To Phone Pitching
Pitching by phone: 17 tips for honing your skills | Articles | Home
PR Secrets to Phone Pitching | the i.d.e.a. brand
To Phone or not to Phone (pitch) The Media « Effective Public Relations

Happy callings! XOXOXO, Jess_AsPRing



8 responses to “PR 101: Phone Pitching…p.s. apparently, I suck at it.

  1. I have always felt as though phone pitching was like telemarketing (and I’ve done a tm stint so I am pretty sure). It takes a flexible script, hardened determination, and the ability to sound like a smile. A suggestion is to stand while talking and to project the smile 😉

  2. Great post! Something I’m learning to do as a PR intern over the summer is write a media plan with the pitches for our various outlets and story ideas. That’s another way to do up notes if you have more time to spare 🙂

  3. I had to phone pitch a few times at my internship last summer. I would definetly agree that having notes in front of you is a must. It streamlines your thought process and stops you from rambling. I have never tried asking for feedback though, great tip!

  4. Great tips! Notes are a must! I’m definitely one to forget what I am talking about because I am thinking about what I want to say next. Even after a lot of pitching experience, I STILL hate calling when there are coworkers around that can listen.

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