In the public relations world, follow-up phone calls are a necessary evil. We understand media are inundated with press releases and emails from PR pros on a daily basis, which creates a necessity to follow up to ensure they received the information we sent.
Trust me, we don’t want to sit down and make phone calls to media for an hour any more than they want to field those phone calls incessantly. With that being said, here are a handful of helpful tips to make your follow-up calls a success:
Be respectful of their time.
Media are busy people. Try asking if it’s a good time to talk. If so, get to the point quickly. Tell them why you are calling, offer a brief overview of the story idea or press release and ask if that is something they would be interested in covering.
Have all your information handy to be able to answer any questions they may have. If you don’t have the answer, be honest, but let them know you’ll find out. I often get tasked with making the calls, but can’t always answer every question. I always have as much information handy as possible. If something is beyond my scope of knowledge, I tell them who I will put them in contact with to get the necessary information, or I’ll get it myself.
If you say you’re going to do something, make sure to follow through and do it quickly. Act while the person’s conversation with you is still fresh, as opposed to hours or even days later when they may just toss your information aside again. Even if they have an odd request, put forth the extra effort to do what you can. It will not only make your client happy if it results in positive coverage, but it could also result in a stronger relationship with the editor or reporter for future interactions.
Don’t be a pest.
This is something I continually read from media professionals regarding follow ups. If you send a press release or story idea, don’t wait 10 minutes before picking up the phone to call. Give it some time to see if they respond. If not, then try calling to make sure they received the info and see if it is something they are interested in.
Don’t take it personally.
You’re going to hear no – a lot. And just like in every day life, you’re going to come across a fair share of “not so pleasant people”, as well. Don’t take it personally. You have a job to do, just as much as they do. The key is to remain professional, confident and courteous.
I’ve been lucky enough in my time at Identity to work with a lot of great media who understand the necessity of this process and have been incredibly cordial and helpful, letting me know if they plan to run something or if it doesn’t quite fit their scope. Most end the conversation by asking me to continue sending stuff their way even if they weren’t interested in that particular idea.
But, I have also dealt with a handful of impatient editors (some were just downright rude), with one memorable case where the editor sent me email after email of demands. I did everything I could to meet those demands, and I escalated what I couldn’t to my manager. And you know what? We got a great story.
Follow-up phone calls can be a nerve-racking experience. Just remember to be confident, professional and follow the above tips I outlined.
What other advice do you have for successfully following up with media?