The moment an email from you pops into an inbox, or your call is answered by a member of the media contact - even before your pitch begins, you are building your relationship with that outlet. The little things are what matter in situations like this, this first impression you are making could lead to months or years of positive interchanges, or brand you as a hassle, or thorn in their side. Be sure to think about what you say, how you say it, and how you present yourself. Here are some tips that have worked for us and are sure to work for you:
When emailing be sure your subject line is direct, to the point, and not full of numbers, exclamation points (or overuse of caps), and doesn't run off the screen. This ensures you will not appear to be spam, and it shows them you know exactly what you want to say and can get to the point quickly.
Before launching into your pitch always introduce yourself. You would be shocked at how many people forget this on a daily basis. If on the phone NEVER assume that someone will remember your voice, or who you are and what your purpose was. So you emailed them last week? Pitched them last month? Politely refresh their memory: "Hi Karen, this is Sabina from Red Branch, we spoke last month about the rollerskating chickens performing at Madison Square Garden this week." See that? This ensures they don't have to go through their mental files or waste precious time remembering your story - it is also much less presumptious! If you are emailing the same rule applies!
If on the phone, always ask if they have a few seconds to chat - please note I said a few seconds - they do NOT have a few minutes to chat with you - at least not until they have gotten into your pitch and see it applies to them. To ask without any previous relationship if they have a few minutes to chat is once again not respecting how busy these editors and producers are.
Begin building the relationship: "How was your holiday weekend?" "So you're stuck at work still too?" "Isn't it awful and dreary out" , "Happy Hump Day", "I'm sure you're swamped planning holiday/Valentine's Day/Fashion Week/Sweeps/Dental Segment ......these phrases are "connecting phrases". You are working on establishing comfort and sincere relationships. So don't be too sterile in your pitches. I always make an effort to humanize the conversation and find ways to connect with the editor, whether over something we have in common, the fact that we are all burning the candle at both ends, who knows! The point is you want to be sincere, likeable, genuine, and immediately come off as nice and easy to work with.
Never show anger or disappointment if they don't have time to hear you out during a phone pitch. Don't take it personally, they are busy, you may not be a good fit, they may be in the middle of a meeting...there are countless reasons your contact may not be able to chat. Instead simply acknowledge that they are busy and ask "do you mind if I shoot you over an email with the information/line sheets/fact sheet?" If they say yes, let them know what email address it will come from ("be on the look out for an email from Sabina@redbranchpr.com") and ask if they will take attachments.
When sending initial emails unless you have prior permission to send attachments, do not send them. Especially don't send high res images. You will not only clog somebody's email box and thus be linked to that frustration, but you may end up directly in their spam box. Be patient and in the interim just send links to your website or line sheets.
Smile & Dial! When pitching via phone, before you even pick it up put a smile on your face. This will change the way you present yourself vocally and will affect the way you are perceived on the other end of the line. It's also a great way to combat nerves!
Grammar, Grammar, Spelling, Spelling: I can't say it enough, and it's not just the ex-teacher in me. All of us make mistakes shooting out emails or even blogging from time to time (!!) but when sending out a pitch, press release, or an introductory email, be sure you make a great impression by ensuring your spelling and grammar are in tip top shape. These days all it really takes is a click of a mouse and the computer will do it for you. Nevertheless, be sure to give it a final read through, and if you don't trust yourself ask a friend known for their impeccable grammar and spelling.
Above all, always remember that the media are people just like you: busy, trying to do a good job, often under pressure, and happy to help if they feel you are a good fit. Reach out to them from a place of goodness and a true belief that you are a good fit, do it the right way, and if not now, soon, you will be rewarded for your efforts. Remember that once you establish you are a great resource and easy to work with, they will surely be back for more!