It is called the gift of the gab for a reason. Being able to chat comfortably with a stranger and communicate your message in an effective manner, all the while leaving a memorable and lasting impression with someone you have never physically met, is no easy task.
For some it can be quite daunting but for many PR professionals, cold calling to pitch a story provides a thrill like no other – Especially when you get results!
Having been an Account Executive for over a year now I have been lucky enough to experience first-hand the good, the bad and the ugly of cold calling. They say phone confidence is something you can’t teach but here are 5 tips I have picked up along the way:
1. Choose your targets:
You have an interview opportunity with a client. Should you A – Spam every journalist in your database in the hope that someone is interested? or B – Do a little research, find out who is already writing about similar topics and then approach them with a tailored pitch? The answer is always B. A personal pitch that is developed around a journalists interests, past work or better yet a previous conversation with them ensures that you are only approaching relevant media. By relevant I mean journalists that might actually consider taking you up on your offer!
Not only can this approach save time but it can yield far better results.
2. Introductions are key:
Not everybody has a courteous phone manner. Some answer with their name and others a gruff ‘Hello’. Either way, it is vital that you not let how a journalist picks up the phone throw you off your game.
Start off by introducing yourself and a greeting that you are comfortable with. My personal bank includes “How have you been?”, “How is your week going?” or sometimes even “Happy Friday!”. The main aim of your introduction is to let the journalist know who you are and that you are an actual person on the other end of the phone, a person who wants to have a real and two-sided conversation with them.
3. Set the mood:
Ever received a sales call where the urge to hang up hits you in the first 5 seconds? If you spill out a jumble of pre-rehearsed words then chances are, the journalist you’re calling will react similarly.
The trick is to begin with a light and easy dialogue. As the tone you use will directly affect the flow of your conversation, you should aim for friendly and respectful, not overeager and rushed. Talking over someone never ends well and all good conversations need some give and take.
4. Make it relevant:
There is an art to storytelling and it is through phone calls with media that we have the opportunity to sell and enliven the stories of our clients. Put yourself in the journalist’s shoes and ask ‘Why do I care?’, ‘Why would I write about this’ and ‘How does this fit with my publication?’. When you can answer each of these questions you should be able to pick up the phone and make your story appealing.
5. Close on a promise:
You have had the conversation and are now on much friendlier terms but chances are if you hang up that phone with no follow up action both you and your story will fade into oblivion. To counteract this, offer to send across an email so that your contact can have everything in front of them, both your key points and most importantly your contact details!
Written by Holly Frendo