How Do You Pitch

We’ve all heard about the evolution of communication methods.  Fax was the new snail mail.  Email is the new fax.  Twitter is the new email.  Snail mail is passé.

So what does this all mean?  Some like it in 140 characters and some like it with a postage stamp on it.

As PR pros, we pride ourselves on adapting our communications styles to best meet the needs of our audiences.  If a client prefers phone calls to emails, phone calls it is.  If a reporter doesn’t accept follow-up calls, we send follow-up emails.

My question – is there a right and a wrong way to pitch?  More accurately, is it wrong to mix your pitch mediums?

I typically pitch via email, keep the message concise and spend time researching the reporter’s recent articles prior to pitching.  If I call to follow-up, I wait a decent amount of time after sending the email and I make certain I can offer added value beyond the pitch (i.e. I don’t call and only ask if my email was received.)

I realize reporters are super busy.  And I am always grateful to those who answer my emails, especially those who politely decline or refer to me a colleague who is working on a story that my content could tie into.  But my question is, am I wrong to follow-up with a phone call when my emails (initial and/or follow-up) are ignored?  Should it be only emails or only phone calls?

While my job is to follow-up and follow-through to ensure no opportunity is overlooked, I wonder if I am blacklisting myself by making follow-up calls and mixing pitch mediums.  Is there a better pitching strategy that PR pros could employ?

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  • Marie Baker

    This is a great post and you raise some good questions. It's difficult to come to one answer really. Every journalist/producer is different. I've encountered the “don't ever call me on the phone, ever!” responses, as well as the “Next time can you leave a voicemail with as much detail as possible and just don't bother e-mailing because I never read them” (oh yea, I'm serious). I think it is all dependent on the person you are pitching.

    My rule of thumb is that if I know it's a good pitch, and it's relevant to that individual's interests/beat and I haven't heard back, then I will follow up with a phone call if I don't get an answer via e-mail.

  • laurenfernandez

    You have to mix it up. Reporters are different ages and like to receive information in every which way. Some reporters still like faxes. Some only prefer e-mail. I've actually landed more national level hits by sending hard copy press kits than e-mailing an electronic version. The first thing is to make sure the information is newsworthy, then research how to best send the information out. Follow-up should be a different avenue IMO.

  • I typically pitch and follow up only via e-mail, but then again I deal with very few traditional journos. Phones are so messy. Agreements are made that no one has hardcopy notes on, voicemails get lost, yadda yadda.

  • Great post, you raise great questions, and important ones at that.

    Personally, what has worked for me is to mix and match based of internal intel (i.e. other PR pro's or journos advice), external outlooks (i.e. previous stories) and then i proceed via a combo… email first always, followed shortly by phone if timing is of the essence, or later if no deadline in sight.

    Overall though, I really enjoy phone pitching and chewing the fat with my media counterparts live… however, respecting others' needs, i always proceed with caution and understanding that journos (as our teams) are busy busy busy especially under the current environment… so i always start with being mindful of deadlines and always, ALWAYS, giving the opportunity to turn me away at the door (“Is this a good time to talk? yes, i can definitely call back!”)…

    I wouldn't want to have anything replace the phone, it's a lifeline of the industry, and honestly levels the playing field… even if people have caller ID…

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  • heatherwhaling

    I think as PR people, we hear from quite a few journalists who *say* they don't want follow up phone calls. I'm sure that's because they're inundated with crappy pitches and just-as-useless follow-up phone calls. That said, if you have a good story to pitch, most reporters don't mind a polite follow-up attempt. In fact, I've had reporters ask me to contact them again if I haven't heard back from them about a particular story.

    The key is being respectful of their time. When I'm pitching, I start by sending an email. Then, depending on the reporter, I'll either send another email or make that phone call. But, when I make the call, I avoid calling at deadline and I ask the reporter if now is a good time. The reporter will be much more open to hearing your pitch if they think you understand where they're coming from.

    There's also a difference between following up and stalking. If you get no response after a couple attempts, odds are they're not interested. 🙂

    Great post, Danielle!

    Heather (@prtini)

  • Thanks for commenting, Heather! I couldn't agree more that there is a difference between following up and stalking. It's always frustrating when you limit your outreach attempts and are respectful of people's time, but are still perceived as the stalker breed.

    That said, I'm happiest to read that you, and others, mix outreach mediums. I've recently heard more of my peers saying they only reach out across one medium and I was anxious to see if it was a trend!

  • Marie Baker

    This is a great post and you raise some good questions. It's difficult to come to one answer really. Every journalist/producer is different. I've encountered the “don't ever call me on the phone, ever!” responses, as well as the “Next time can you leave a voicemail with as much detail as possible and just don't bother e-mailing because I never read them” (oh yea, I'm serious). I think it is all dependent on the person you are pitching.

    My rule of thumb is that if I know it's a good pitch, and it's relevant to that individual's interests/beat and I haven't heard back, then I will follow up with a phone call if I don't get an answer via e-mail.

  • laurenfernandez

    You have to mix it up. Reporters are different ages and like to receive information in every which way. Some reporters still like faxes. Some only prefer e-mail. I've actually landed more national level hits by sending hard copy press kits than e-mailing an electronic version. The first thing is to make sure the information is newsworthy, then research how to best send the information out. Follow-up should be a different avenue IMO.

  • I typically pitch and follow up only via e-mail, but then again I deal with very few traditional journos. Phones are so messy. Agreements are made that no one has hardcopy notes on, voicemails get lost, yadda yadda.

  • Great post, you raise great questions, and important ones at that.

    Personally, what has worked for me is to mix and match based of internal intel (i.e. other PR pro's or journos advice), external outlooks (i.e. previous stories) and then i proceed via a combo… email first always, followed shortly by phone if timing is of the essence, or later if no deadline in sight.

    Overall though, I really enjoy phone pitching and chewing the fat with my media counterparts live… however, respecting others' needs, i always proceed with caution and understanding that journos (as our teams) are busy busy busy especially under the current environment… so i always start with being mindful of deadlines and always, ALWAYS, giving the opportunity to turn me away at the door (“Is this a good time to talk? yes, i can definitely call back!”)…

    I wouldn't want to have anything replace the phone, it's a lifeline of the industry, and honestly levels the playing field… even if people have caller ID…

  • heatherwhaling

    I think as PR people, we hear from quite a few journalists who *say* they don't want follow up phone calls. I'm sure that's because they're inundated with crappy pitches and just-as-useless follow-up phone calls. That said, if you have a good story to pitch, most reporters don't mind a polite follow-up attempt. In fact, I've had reporters ask me to contact them again if I haven't heard back from them about a particular story.

    The key is being respectful of their time. When I'm pitching, I start by sending an email. Then, depending on the reporter, I'll either send another email or make that phone call. But, when I make the call, I avoid calling at deadline and I ask the reporter if now is a good time. The reporter will be much more open to hearing your pitch if they think you understand where they're coming from.

    There's also a difference between following up and stalking. If you get no response after a couple attempts, odds are they're not interested. 🙂

    Great post, Danielle!

    Heather (@prtini)

  • Thanks for commenting, Heather! I couldn't agree more that there is a difference between following up and stalking. It's always frustrating when you limit your outreach attempts and are respectful of people's time, but are still perceived as the stalker breed.

    That said, I'm happiest to read that you, and others, mix outreach mediums. I've recently heard more of my peers saying they only reach out across one medium and I was anxious to see if it was a trend!