Tools of the Trade 3: The Call

Sections of this topic

    You have sent out your news release. Now what? Get back to what you do best? Take a walk? Sit by the phone and wait? Most people who don’t have a public relations person in their company, or don’t use a PR advisor or agency often make the mistake of thinking that just because the news release went out that it will get “picked up.”

    It might if the news is compelling, or it aligns with other stories like it in news cycle, and/or you have some history with the news organizations that you sent the release to. In my career I’ve met many people who have let a release fly but never once made a callback to follow up. “Media Relations” are all about following up, but there are some basic rules to follow when making “The Call.”

    Rule 1

    Never call and ask if the news release was received. What you are really calling about is why your story is important or plays off something making headlines that day. Or your story has a strong local angle to something occurring nationally or internationally.

    Rule 2

    Be succinct. If you’re lucky enough to get someone live on the phone, you have precious seconds to convince the other party that it merits their attention and coverage. Create a script if you need to that includes your key message. Rehearse. Call a colleague and practice it. But sound natural and not like you’re reading the ingredients off a can of soup.

    Rule 3

    Put on your Telemarketer Hat. The next time an annoying telemarketer calls you, rather than saying, “No thank you, you idiot, you are calling me during dinner yet again and there are laws to prevent these calls if only I wasn’t so lazy to call the number and be registered as part of the no-call zone, I would not have to listen to your sorry spiel, you must be really hard up for work, or lazier than I am. Goodbye!” Instead, listen to how they pitch whatever it is they’re selling, a politician, a new product, or service. Whatever it is, most likely the person has their message down and is ready to engage.

    Rule 4

    Set a callback limit. As a general rule I go by the three strikes and you’re out limit — meaning, I’ve tried three times and left three messages. Depending on the client or the urgency, I may not leave a message at all but just keep calling until I get a live one on the line. If I’m using email, once or twice is enough. If I haven’t made my case but feel I really need to push — and this story is really worth being told by a TV station or section of the newspaper — I’ll keep trying and maybe reposition my pitch.

    Rule 5

    Be discreet. There’s a fine line between being persistent and being a pest. It doesn’t take much to land on somebody’s black list if you’ve breached their tolerance level or filled up their email with the same message over and over again. To paraphrase the great Joe South song, “walk a mile in their shoes,” and make The Call confidently, expecting only good results.