This is the story of how Beau McDermott went from watching his email pitches get ignored . . . to getting called and texted by journalists minutes after he emailed them.
Beau came up with a solid story angle with good visuals that he could reproduce in lots of markets. He didn’t know who to contact at any given TV news station, so he emailed the assignment desks. When he didn’t get a response, he did something drastic.
Before I go any further, here’s how Beau describes his former self: “I had crippling social anxiety. I would go out of my way to avoid initiating conversations with anyone, especially strangers.”
But he took a series of steps that forced him to confront and overcome that fear. That – and because he had only been doing PR for a year and didn’t know the conventional wisdom that says if you ever call a journalist the phone will explode in your hand and carve a crater out of the side of your head – is why Beau did the unthinkable and actually called the news desks at his target stations.
He followed a carefully arranged script, but delivered it like a human being talking to another human being. I’ve heard the recordings of his calls (more on that in a moment) and you’d be surprised at how non-glib he sounds. Just like a regular guy.
All the calls went well – everyone at least asked for more info. More than half ended up covering his company’s product. But that’s not the point of this story.
The crazy result of Beau using the phone? His EMAIL pitches became much more effective!
After a few phone convos with assignment editors, he realized which parts of his pitch hit home. He also noted what questions they asked. And refined his subsequent emails accordingly.
And that’s when assignment editors started calling HIM. He doesn’t need to phone pitch anymore (at least on this campaign) because the feedback he received has made his email pitch so effective.
My point is NOT that you should start calling everyone you pitch. Don’t reply and tell me phone pitching doesn’t work – as we all know, barely any journalists actually work in a newsroom anymore and most zealously guard their personal phone numbers.
Here is the actual point I am trying to get across:
Begin drafting every pitch by imagining you’re going to pitch it by phone. That will force you to make it punchier and more engaging. Then practice delivering it by phone to a coworker or friend. Note where they bog down or light up. And then write your email pitch based on that feedback.
And, if your pitch is relevant to local TV, you should definitely consider following Beau’s method of calling the news desk after sending your email. That’s the one outlet that still pays someone to answer the phone and surface story ideas.
Beau shared his successes – and audio recordings of three of his phone pitches – with his fellow Inner Circle members on a training session we held this week. He also gave away the template/script that worked for him. We also heard IC member Gina Traficant recreate a successful phone pitch using a different style.
Inner Circle members are already implementing those scripts and templates in their work. You can access them too, the next time we accept new members. Register now for updates.
This article was originally published on July 13, 2022
(I’ll also send you other weekly tips)