Communication is Key to Successful Pitching – No Joke

26 January 2011

I made it through roughly 45 minutes of last night’s State of the Union (SOTU). It wasn’t the content of the address, the annual crowd shots of childish behavior as adults decide to clap or not clap based on the capital letter next to their name, or this year’s mingling of high school cliques to show unity – it was a joke that led me to the remote control.

“Within 25 years, our goal is to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail, which could allow you go places in half the time it takes to travel by car,” President Obama said. “For some trips, it will be faster than flying – without the pat-down.”

When it comes to political speeches, that’s gold. And yet, it received only mild applause and laughter? Come on! There is no harm in responding to a joke about an over-sensationalized news story with genuine laughter, which would have provided a rare, public opportunity for politicians to show an unguarded emotion.

The instinctive – and let’s face it, irritated – response I had is something that is not unique to me, and frankly something we in the PR industry should be conscious of at all times. In short, reporters are people. In our line of work, we call and e-mail reporters daily, generally wanting something from them in response to something a client has going on or an issue they would like heard. Often we will even have something similar to a script of what we want to make sure we tell them, but it is important to avoid reading to the reporter like a recording with no human qualities.

Say hello, ask how they are doing. If you’ve spoken to a reporter before and they mentioned an article they were working on or a vacation they had coming up, ask about it. You don’t need to over-do the small talk, reporters have deadlines, but it is vital that we all make an effort to connect with them on a personal level so your call feels like a conversation to the reporter rather than them feeling like they are being spoken to.

Who knows, they may be more receptive to your pitch or at least give you critical feedback for why they are not interested. Or it could pay dividends down the road when the reporter remembers your name and client when you call, or vice versa when they remember you have a client in a particular space and call you.

Regardless, by attempting to connect, it increases your chances that they won’t tune you out.

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