EVERY SECOND COUNTS: HOW TO PITCH TO NATIONAL JOURNALISTS
May 12, 2016
By Lucy Gardner
Ironically, to follow on from our last post “Why Journos fail in PR”, I thought I would introduce myself as the newest member of the Ginger army.
Fingers crossed I won’t get stretchered off as one of the wounded from the PR battlefield.
And I can hopefully share my insider’s knowledge of being a features and beauty journalist at a daily national newspaper.
Every second counts. Psychologists estimate you have seven seconds to make a first impression.
I can reveal they were not talking about journalists when they carried out that research.
Half it, minus an all-important second and you’ve just about got the crux of how long you have to lock down their attention.
I know first-hand what it’s like to be working in an environment so fast-paced and high pressured, you haven’t got time to hear a four or five minute phone conversation on something that sounds complicated and irrelevant.
Particularly, if the person on the other end of the phone doesn’t appear to know too much about it…
If you manage to get a journalist on a call it’s imperative you get to the point. Why are you calling? Why will I not want to miss this story?
Am I going to kick myself when I see it in a rival publication? Or worse, is my Editor going to know I missed this belter?
It’s always handy to have an answer to at least one of those questions, before you pick up the phone.
Essentially to a journalist a PR call is always going to start off feeling like a cold caller.
Of course, not all are. Some can end up being the golden nugget that changes your whole news day, but when you are busy and someone calls or even emails to ask “What are you working on?” or “Can I help you with anything?”… it’s highly frustrating.
It was certainly my biggest pet peeve as I was wading through 345 emails a day, 42 phone calls and 7 deadlines.
But I was always appreciative of how hard and daunting it must be to make those phone calls.
As a Features and Beauty journalist I did work closely with a lot of fantastic agencies and PR’s who had done their research before making contact, got to the point and didn’t hound me for something that wasn’t time sensitive.
They were clued up.
They knew I worked for the women’s section on a national newspaper, not the travel section on a magazine.
And mistakes like that can make all the difference in nailing those first three seconds that lead to a longer conversation, an on-going relationship and the coverage WITH the name checks.
Besides product placement, beauty and lifestyle coverage is particularly hard to gain across the board.
There are only so many times you can suggest the best anti-ageing product or reveal what is in a certain celebrity’s make-up bag.
I constantly found myself asking PRs for ideas.
Offer them something- new stats they can work with, a fun and human interest based test/story- anything that is essentially not going to appear as an advert.
But also make sure you have all the tools to make that story work.
If you have a case study…
- is it right for that publication?
- can you back up your ‘scientific claims’?
- have you got pictures to go alongside the words?
- why would you want to champion that story if you were a journalist?
- why will the readers want to carry on past the first paragraph?
If you don’t know the answers, it’s probably best to put the phone down.