One of the omnipresent PR methods of communication since the invention of the telephone is, naturally, a phone call. However, we’ve collectively evolved to get shivers when someone calls unannounced. As one ingenious tweet stated:
People seem to prefer email as a mode of communication, as it allows a safe distance, and it doesn’t call for an instant reaction. Still, for PR folks, phone calls are part of the job—people seek efficiency in verbally confirming or following up on particular information exchange. That being said, there are numerous steps to include in your phone-call artistry if your ultimate goal is not to annoy journalists and achieve what you planned.
Here are some tips:
Estimate the best time to call
It’s more complicated than ever to assess the best time to call, as it seems that, for most people, it’s never a good time—but there are undoubtedly bad times to call journalists. Don’t call on Friday at the end of the day; no one will even remember your pitch by Monday. Avoid placing calls in the afternoon to reporters from the big media outlets, as that’s the peak time of their activity. Finally, calling during any non-working hours will raise eyebrows and be met with the guard on.
Respect the journalists’ time
When your contact responds, make sure to be mindful of their time, and ask if it’s a good time to talk. Don’t get offended if they say they’ll call you back; instead, try to propose another time in the day to make a call. In these high-pressure dynamics, PR people sometimes forget that not everyone’s on fire—and can sometimes push for a response without much consideration for the journalist.
Achieve your point quickly
Similar to what’s been said, make sure to balance the duration of introduction and pitch itself. It’s good to reference a shared experience or piece of information—the connection and establishing relationships is always right. But, continuing in the manner of efficiency and mindfulness of everyone’s busy schedule, get to the point promptly. Make sure not to be in a loud environment, or drive through a tunnel where the connection might break. In short, be well equipped to make a technically uninterrupted call. A cloud-based phone, such as RingCentral or any of its alternatives, can be your great ally—the advanced technology deployed ensures high-quality calls as long as you have a proper connection to the internet.
Do your homework thoroughly
Preparing for the call is the crucial piece of advice—and something that will make your phone pitch or follow up next-level. Research the journalist you’re planning on calling. Find a striking piece of their work that you can mention or connect to what you’re asking. Have all the information ready and checked. If you need to, have notes in front of you, and glance at them to double-check the accuracy. Finally, research when is the proper time to call based on their outlet-specific time schedule, or the industry they report on, and adjust your timing with theirs.
Keep in mind that you want to build and maintain a good relationship, rather than achieve one goal by pestering a journalist. Even if they give in once, they will mark your number with “do not answer” for any future occasions. So, before picking up the phone to make the follow-up call after sending them an email, give them time to respond first. If you call them, and they don’t answer your call, don’t redial their number in 10 minutes. Give them at least half an hour.
You pacing tells a lot about your professionalism and valuing others’ time and attention. During the call, make sure to have a steady tempo: not rushed, but not too slow either. Sometimes nerves can get the better of you, and you end up being too strong, choking while speaking, or stumbling over your words. By doing proper research and remembering to breathe and have a relaxed pace, you’ll achieve the calm that you need.