Are you ready to pitch?
If you’re like me, you excitably began your internship eager to make your mark and learn as much as you can toward building your PR experience. Armed with a wealth of knowledge, (and theory), you confidently begin your journey and start your quest. From assisting with media releases, to creating media lists and other various writing tasks, you get involved in whatever you can, and you’re feeling pretty good about yourself.
You get the call
That media release you just helped write for a top client has now been approved by them, and is ready
‘For Immediate Release’, and the Account Manager asks you to ‘pitch it out’ using your media list.
It all sounds simple enough, all I have to do is call a journalist and they will run my story, I can do that!
The Light Bulb moment
Even with many years of work experience under my belt, calling customers and liaising with a variety of people over the phone, including journalists, I was reasonably confident that I could do this and get great results. However, I had a moment where I stopped and thought, this is a little different in terms of the story, purpose and desired result, and maybe I should pause before I engage, after all, I don’t want to make a mistake with this one.
Time to pitch:
How hard can it be’ you might ask? It’s just a phone call or an email right? Wrong!
Many PR students are simply not taught how to pitch while they are at University, (I’m one of them), but if you have, then congratulations, you are one up on many of us. Often interns are only exposed to this process when they do an internship or work experience with little or no knowledge of the how to’s or thoughts across how to speak with journalists effectively and confidently.
Just the thought of calling a journalist or editor is daunting to some, so how can you help overcome these thoughts and make your first pitch, (remember it will get easier the more you do). Your ultimate goal is to gain the most effective coverage you can reasonably achieve for your client, here are some tips that I have learn’t so far:
- 1, 2 and 3 – Be prepared! Make sure you understand the release and the angle. This is your opportunity to ‘sell’ the value of your story and differentiate it from ‘just another pitch’. Have the release in front of you and note the key points of your angle.
- Know the name of the journalist or editor you are calling, the last thing you want is to be ‘umming’ and ‘ahhing’ when the call is answered.
- Be straight to the point and be real. Obviously you must be professional, but an honest yet concise conversation with the person you are speaking to goes a long way, you will most likely be speaking to them again very soon.
- Ask for advice. It’s expected that you will have dozens of questions throughout your internship, so don’t be afraid to ask for advice and tips. Despite what I thought I knew, I asked lots of questions that made all the difference, and will help you craft your own style.
- Evaluate each pitch. After each of your first pitches, take a moment to recap and evaluate how the pitch went, think about how you can make the next one better, and any comments you picked up on. It’s all part of honing your skills toward becoming a great PR professional, you are already on your way!
You might have already heard that there is a space of contention between some journalists and PR professionals. Both groups are busy people in their own right and under pressure to work to deadlines but here are some interesting facts:
Oriella PR Network polled nearly 500 journalists and found that the number one resource that journalists in this study are using for sourcing was PR agencies, with a whopping 62 percent.
As for the first port of call when researching a news or feature story? PR again! Nearly 22 percent of respondents say their initial stop is a press release., (Allen, K. 2011).
Ultimately Journalists and PR pros’ need each other, so it is important to build your understanding and play an active part in this relationship toward a successful outcome. You may not always get your story across the line but if you continue to learn and hone your skills you are destined for great success. There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing your piece in a major national or even international publication, knowing your efforts helped get it there.
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