Back in the day I had a very habitual process that I followed: avoid the Silicon Valley morning rush hour by driving to work at 5:30 a.m.; start calling East Coast media (around 6:00 a.m.) for pitches I needed responses back on; and then head to my office building’s gym at about 6:45 a.m. Every morning I followed through on this routine and was able to get a hold of East Coast reporters. During those brief conversations with the media I was able to talk about a range of things including developing relationships, sharing ideas, talking through my pitch, to setting up interviews for my clients. All in all, telephone pitching was the reason why I became a god at media relations. My ability to connect with the press over the phone separated me from the thousands of email pitches my industry peers sent with reckless abandonment.
Blame Social Media?
One of the biggest hurdles I faced with my previous employees was getting them to actually pick up the phone and have a conversation with a reporter. For many of them, especially the account assistants who just graduated from college, the thought of picking up the phone was worse than taking a bus to work. It was down right evil! The thought of actually having an intelligent and strategic conversation with the media is by no means easy, but using alternative forms of communication such as social media (to exchange ideas about a pitch/proposed story) just simply can’t replace what verbal communications can achieve, whether it be in person, over the phone or online. So I squarely point the blame at PR professionals who don’t have the initiative and/or intelligence to have a meaningful conversation with the press. My message to PR practitioners is to stop hiding behind alternative forms of communication and use your detective skills to hunt down phone numbers for the media you’re pitching — and call them!
Tech journalists avoiding calls?
Nowadays the tech press, especially the tech blogs, rely more on one-dimensional pitching via email, social media and to some extent, texting. Have you ever tried just carrying on an important conversation with your boss over just email? Better yet, have you just relied on asking for a raise through exchanging direct Tweets with your manager? If you have, I pray for you. But for all of you that still rely on in-person meetings and phone calls for those important conversations I assume you realize why.
Verbal communications whether they’re expressed in-person, over the phone or via the Internet, allow for a much richer conversation and thus a more rewarding outcome. However, as younger people become journalists and PR practitioners they are purposely choosing to avoid these “richer conversations” by relying on more one-dimensional forms of communications.
911: We have an emergency
The phone is a critical component to both the PR practitioner and the journalist. If we (PR pros and media) don’t start gravitating back to verbal communications then news reporting will be adversely affected. So much is lost in translation in an email, Tweet and text that we’re relying on a new communication medium that isn’t ideally suited for “Grade A” news reporting. Let’s avoid making “911” the last phone number we remember and rekindle the verbal conversations and banter we use to enjoy as comrades that were focused on producing a solid product: great storytelling!
By: David Splivalo