Making “The Call”
By Theresa Meyers of Blue Moon Communications
The phone is one of public relations most important tools. But there is a right way and a wrong way to approach calling editors, producers and reporters. Perhaps one of the biggest mistakes public relations professionals make is not following up on every item they mail out. Too many pitch letters, press releases and press kits go unnoticed because there is no follow up call made, and that, is money wasted.
As an author working on your own public relations you will need to make “the call” to a reporter, editor or producer at some point in time. When you make your follow-up calls, the following techniques will make you sound like a PR pro:
· Know what your key message points are ahead of time and write everything down on a paper you keep near the phone. Many times you’ll have to leave a voice mail and will have the reporter/producer/editor call you back. Having the information at your fingertips will prevent you from getting flustered when they call back.
· Practice in advance what you are going to say and how you say it. Use a tape recorder to help you if you’re not confident about how you sound.
· When you talk on the phone, SMILE. You can hear a smile! Standing up also changes your demeanor on the phone.
· Immediately state your name.
· Always check to see if you are calling at a good time. Some media are on deadline and will not be receptive no matter how perfect your material is for them. If they say no, ask them when would be better to call them back, then do it.
· If it is a good time, get to the point by telling the producer or editor who, what, when and where of your pitch.
· Be enthusiastic, energetic, chatty, up-beat and personable. You can talk passionately and freely, but keep it brief and sincere.
· If you’ve got their attention with your hook, but haven’t locked in an interview, tell them a story related to your hook. Ask them about the weather and compare it to where you live. (I guarantee you the weather in Arizona will be different from anywhere else.) If they seem interested, but not hooked, offer a no-strings-attached interview for five minutes.
· Remember that no doesn’t mean no. It may really mean not right now, or it isn’t right for my section or show. Be persistent without becoming obnoxious. Don’t give up until they say DON’T CALL ME. And even then don’t take it personally.
· If you get voice mail make sure you have a script written. Give your name. You then have 20-30 seconds to pitch yourself and tell them why their talk show or magazine needs you and what you can offer. Tell them what you’ve already sent and then restate your phone number. Here’s an example:
This is Theresa Meyers and I’m calling to discuss an interview exclusive for the The View. Do you know one of the biggest problem Americans have in their relationships is confusing sex with romance? Author Amy Gerret can shed some light on why society is failing to keep relationships meaningful. She’ll be in New York on August 25th on a book tour. Would you like to have her give your viewers her top ten ways to get romance back in a relationship? I sent you her latest book, In The Storm, and a packet of materials last week. You can reach me weekdays from 9-5pm pacific time. My name again is Theresa Meyers and my number is 360-895-0879.
Along with these “do’s” there are some definite “don’ts” when it comes to making follow-up calls.
· Don’t pretend to be familiar with the producer.
· Don’t call multiple producers at the show.
· Don’t ever lie.
· Don’t attempt to keep the producer on the phone longer than three minutes unless they are actively asking you questions.
· Don’t say anything you don’t want quoted!
Talking with these folks isn’t as daunting as it may seem. The practice of making follow-up calls on each and every piece you send out also teach some discipline. After all, if you have a choice of sending out 500 or 200 press kits and are trying to decide if it is worth the extra money, you can balance that choice with the time and effort it will require to make the phone calls for each of those kits.
Do public relations professionals actually make that many calls? You bet! Even if you dread doing it, it is well worth it. Once you start making the calls, you’ll get a flow going and it will become easier. With practice, patience and persistence you should see more interviews being booked or publicity increasing as a result of making “the call”.