Stage Four: Follow Up
It is best to follow up a pitch letter with a telephone call to see if the reporter received the material and is interested in the story.As the reporter begins to shape the story, be prepared to offer assistance with further resources, such as interviews with senior management. Offer only someone who can add to the story and whom you can deliver within the reporter’s time frame.
Disappointing a reporter by overpromising is a sure way to kill the story that you’ve worked hard to pitch and place. Therefore, you must clear the possible interview with the executive in advance. You might start by telling the highest-level person involved with the project that you’ve pitched a story about the high-definition video camera to Videography and they seem interested. ‘‘If the story goes forward, I recommend that we offer an interview, and of course, the reporter’s first choice would be you. What’s your availability?’’ The executive may not be willing to do the interview. The decision may depend of the status of the executive, the relative importance of the publication or the
article, or previous interactions with the specific journalist.
If the executive is not willing or not available within the projected time frame, ask who else might do the possible interview, whom the publication would be interested in talking to, and who is familiar with the technical issues.When you speak to that executive, conveying the wishes of his boss, he or she will be both flattered and eager to oblige if he or she will be available before the reporter’s deadline. You can then comfortably offer the interview to the reporter.
Whenyou call, you can tell the journalist, ‘‘I’m calling to make sure you received the material, and I was wondering if you would be interested in talking to Ms. CEO for your story?’’
In today’s world of ubiquitous voice mail, be prepared to leave effective and tantalizing messages, such as, ‘‘I have a possible senior-level interview that might be helpful for your story.’’ The more you can promote one-on-one conversation with the journalist, the more subtle influence you can have on what is included in the story,
what is emphasized, and what is downplayed. Always remember that reporters are extremely busy and may not have time even to take your call. Use discretion to identify whom to call and when. For example, editors on morning
newspapers are on deadline in the afternoon, so the best times to call them are usually between 10:00 a.m. and noon. Radio and television editors have varying deadlines, but one rule is safe:
never call right before airtime. As we’ve shown, the pitch e-mail and pitch letter are crucial to effective public relations. Take the time to prepare them correctly. Then ensure their effectiveness by following up with an offer to provide additional information, and possibly an interview with the highest-level executive who is familiar with the areas that will interest the readership of the publication.
Here are the stages for successful pitches:
1. Analyze the subject, and identify the target.
2. Call the editor.
3. Write your pitch. Begin with a reminder about your telephone conversation. Then write a catchy lead and brief, informative text. Wrap up the pitch, and say you will follow up.
4. Follow up.