By Dorothy York, President and CEO of North American Precis Syndicate (NAPS)
Most editors would rather go to the dentist than sit through a media relations pitch. Earning a placement means you are matching your story to their idea of what it might do to attract more readers. As editors think about marketing to their communities, most are not satisfied to just be present. They usually want to be competitive with other sources of news, or be more interesting to their target audiences, so they can sell more advertising.
For those who say that phone pitches don’t work, they are missing a huge segment of the media that will not give out their email addresses, but will take calls. Also, you can more easily share your charisma and excitement on the phone. It’s a differentiating factor. Passion is paramount. If you want to succeed on the phone, or with a customized email, try this revised media pitch:
1-First comes the meet and greet. Don’t say your name right away when you leave a message for the first time. If someone hears that, they may delete it. If you say “I have a really great strategy for you to make a lot of money, and by the way, my name is...” you will do much better. If you reach someone, you can exchange pleasantries about sport, etc., and then cut to the chase.
2-The best way to build trust is to share success stories to prime the conversation and overcome possible objections. You can only earn media placements if you, yourself, are convinced that your strategy will work. Your beliefs affect voice quality. You need absolute certainty. Your audience forms their opinion of you in seconds, based on your certainty or lack of certainty. “I’m absolutely convinced that my story idea is going to work for you” will help you develop a comfort level for your ideas. Pitch the love of other editors for your ideas.
3-Next you ask what they think and be prepared to listen carefully, to deeply understand your editor’s needs.
4-Ask them if they want to be competitive or better with other sources of news in their communities.
5-Present your ideas to help them be competitive or better. Facts and figures should show how it will impact their business, such as Google Analytics, to prove ROI. Make your pitch very relevant. Try “I saw your story on abc and I have an idea to get more people to follow up on that. Here’s what would help. Can we chat about it?” You can also try “I see that you have a special section on home improvement coming up. I have some great advice and how to stories that are sure to attract more readers and drive more attention to the ads, to help your advertisers get more value for their efforts.”
6-Most objections can be handled with a success story. The goal is to solve a problem. You can say “I understand how you feel. I have someone who felt the same way and this is what they found”. Great media relations people are not only great story tellers, which helps, they also have great personalities. People work with people they like.
7-Close. Show that they need you and they need to do more.
Nobody wants to be the first to work with you. The fastest way to overcome distrust is sharing success stories. People don’t want to hear about failures. They want to hear about success.
Editors don’t always think of the story ideas. They need to be pitched. People are not sitting around dreaming up ways to use your service. They need to be inspired by what others are doing successfully. If they have a competitor, you can say “did you hear that they have a new marketing campaign? I have an idea for you to get even or ahead of them.”
Here are some tips to help you score lots more placements:
1-Become a time management master. It’s a lot more time and effort to earn a placement from a new editor than it is to continue earning placements with one you have an existing relationship with. Work on retention first. Respond to emails that are not urgent after 4pm. If we treat every email as a high priority, we will never get anything done. You could be losing time better spent during calling hours, when people are most likely to pick up the phone.
2-Create a template in Word for everything you do.
3-Prospect the best publishers to drive your numbers. If you are prospecting all Blue Marlin, which are difficult to catch, you may be missing out on the Bass, Trout and Grouper. Focus on the Bass.
4-Prospect 20 to get 4 online presentations and you should win at least half of those, or 2 placements. Take breaks. Try yoga, or meditation.
5-Most effective communications are non-verbal. If you get to present, move around a lot. Wave your hands more and increase your energy level. You don’t want to overdo it by being so enthusiastic that you sound like a used car salesman, but you don’t want to be dull and monotone either. Practice in front of a mirror or with a friend.
6-Set a time to follow up on the spot. “If we could get 5 minutes on the phone... want to chat next week? I promise I won’t call or email you a million times.”
7-Humor helps. Work on it. Go to ComedySportz and take an improv class. It may even save your marriage.
8-Toastmasters trains you to give toasts at celebrations. Part of it is table topics and teaches you to think on your feet, for $50 per year.
9-Always ask for a referral. “Do you have any colleagues friends, fellow business owners that might be interested?”
10-Become a follow up specialist. Most people try 4 or 5 times and then give up. That is not enough. 16 times is about average. Polite persistence includes leaving a little time between calls. Sometimes they pick up the phone because they know that if they don’t, you’ll keep trying. When you finally get through, we are not selling brain surgery equipment, we are pitching story ideas. Ask for the placement.