Archive for March, 2012

Pitching Media is an Art, Getting Them to Listen is Up to You

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on March 21, 2012 by innovativemediapr

This morning I introduced the subject of pitching the media to my Publicity Methods class at Rider University. We even did a bit of role-playing, with students acting as both publicists and media. My purpose with this exercise was to have them realize that media relationships are built on trust and value.

Too many students are coming out of college today and starting in entry-level positions with corporate outlets or public relations agencies unprepared for that first media call they will be entrusted to make. It’s all about logging into a media directory service like Cision and having the service create the media list for you. The problem is, most of these entry-level account executives just take that list and begin bombarding media with email pitches without checking and verifying if these reporters actually cover the beat that the service says they do. They are also hesitant on picking up the phone and afraid of initiating contact directly with media.

As I described to my class, a good pitch letter is short, to the point and leaves the reporter, editor or producer looking for more. The subject header is vital because that is the first thing they will see in their email folder. Hyperlinks to pertinent data are important as well. However, what I feel is even more important is the ability of that young account executive to research their topic, digest the targeted media they wish to pitch, and then not be afraid to pick up the phone and try to initiate a dialogue with the editor, reporter or producer.

The pitch call is not the time to read off a script. When telemarketers call me and I tell them I’m not interested and they continue to read, I cut them off and tell them to toss the script, the call is done. Just think about those calls being made to media. If your account executive sounds like they are reading off a script, don’t you think the journalist will hang up as well?

Media will respond if the content is good, meets their editorial needs and fits what they normally cover. Of course, it also has to be newsworthy. Whether it is a 21-year-old entry-level staffer or a veteran with 20 plus years of experience making the pitch, the journalist will listen if it fits their editorial needs.

Whenever I bring on an intern I make sure to coach them on making cold calls to media. I have them develop a pitch and practice before they make the call. When they are done, I offer them a critique and give them tips on how to make the next call better. The important teaching tool is not whether they garner the placement, but that they begin to experience picking up a phone and trying to foster a dialogue with that media person.

How good is your story pitch? You won’t know until you pick up the phone.

Tom Cosentino