I’d like to say a few more things about your verbal pitch, the stuff you say on the phone either into a live and listening human being or into a voice mail system that may or may not get heard. Like I said before, you want to make it short and sweet if possible (though that’s hard to do sometimes). And if you need to rehearse, don’t scoff at the idea; just rehearse. Or at the very least jot down a script or just a few bullets. Something, anything, that will help you hang up from the call without cringing. Believe me, I’ve had my share of cringing after I’ve left a message. “Did I really just say that?” I’ve been known to say. But then we’re human, but we need to learn from those mistakes, because, honestly, the smoother you are, the more likely you are to succeed.
Sometimes it really is best to get to the point, too. Ask the person you’ve called if the publication is planning any pieces on, hmmm, innovative Halloween candy. But remember to first mention who you are and where you’re calling from. Of course you need to be prepared for the “Well, no, we haven’t: a) gotten that far; b) that’s really been done before; c) but I’m probably going to assign something to a freelancer who’s going to do his own research . . . “ You need to have a reasonable (and fabulous) response to every objection. We’d probably all do well to read some selling books, but really the more I do PR the more I realize that the discipline encompasses a multitude of areas: psychology, marketing, management, anthropology, etc. The list goes on and on.
One of the reasons people don’t do well with this part of PR is that they are desperately afraid of rejection and failure. Well, here’s a news flash for you: everyone gets rejected and failure is, well, it’s a superb opportunity to learn. People have rejected my pitches many times, but only a few have truly been rude about it and I generally don’t call them again. And think about it: the only real time we learn is from our mistakes. When something goes really well you bank that experience, but you don’t necessarily want to continue to do the very same thing. You want to do it better each time. Failure shows us how we can do it better.
And here’s one last thought about this: if you consider what you’re doing a service to the media (I’m serious), that you’re trying to help out, then that sentiment is likely to be heard in your pitch, too. Really.