Oh dear- pride is an awful thing. It makes people tell fibs as this recent survey of journalists reported in The Sell-In so ably displays.
Our finding? 97.9% bollocks.
The question: Have you ever been talked into reporting something that you has decided to ignore following a call from a PR person?”
Guess what? 97.9% of journalists said NO. Well that would be that then, for publicists everywhere. Put down the phone and wait to be summoned. Happily that ain’t how it works. Follow-up calls can and do work, every day.
Journalists will tell you: “If I am interested I’ll get back to you.” but journalists are busy people – they forget, other priorities take over, they deal with what is right in front of them at a moment in time.
Brett knows this from experience – he was a busy journalist himself once upon a time.
In all our time as publicists Hootville got exactly zero calls from journalists telling us that after due consideration they had decided not to do a story we pitched them. This is despite 1000 media hits over a decade or so. Of those 1000 hits maybe 300 would not have happened without a follow-up call.
Extra calls do get results for publicists, even if that result is a definite NO. A definite refusal allows you to move on to the next victim. And even a brief phone call allows you to understand the journalist better for the next pitch.
Journalists will always tell you that PR people are nothing but a nuisance; at best a means to information but never – never – the source of a great story but we are – all the time.
Otherwise there’d be no fashion, real estate, food, entertainment, TV, movie and showbiz reviews or celebrity coverage. No interviews with authors, actors, singers. Have we got to half of all media coverage as yet? Let’s say 30%.
Throw in those big serious interviews with overseas politicians, public figures, corporate honchos and thought leaders. Getting closer to half way. Add the “exclusives” that litter television news (“be the first to see details of the new rail line / highway / stadium.”) Now we’re at 50%.
Most sport coverage outside game time is PR-driven as is anything involving a media conference or photo call – and that means most police and crime reporting. And most big leaks are leaked directly from publicists. That’s close to 6o%.
95% of big social issue stories – that’s what we all push – are entirely PR driven. Equally so for scientific and technology stories.
Don’t let the journalists’ party line dull your desire to make a call and a follow-up. Calls – more than emails and on a par with tweets – get results. Nobody ever says they are influenced by advertising either – but that ain’t true neither.
Tips for getting a successful pitch:
- Have a well-developed story idea.
- Sell the talent.
- Select a relevant journalist and outlet.
- Pitch well – be succint, down-to-earth, pragmatic. Do not be dumb, ditzy or boring.
- Never, ever start with: “Just calling to see if you got my email…”
More on the art of pitching stories to media here. And if you pitch but once a year this is a MUST read.