You sit next to someone in a bar and know almost immediately whether that person could be a social partner. That’s the Tinder phenom: look at a face and know in a flash whether there is potential. #humberpr #mediarelations
The same with entering a new car showroom—within the first two steps, the salesperson knows right away if you are a prospect for a new or pre-owned auto, a high priced one or an economy model. Quick subconscious insights.
In describing marriage researcher John Gottman’s predictive skills, Blink author Malcolm Gladwell portrays these instant insights: “He’s gotten so good at thin-slicing marriages,” Gladwell says, “that he says he can be at a restaurant and eavesdrop on the couple one table over and get a pretty good sense of whether they need to start thinking about hiring lawyers and dividing up custody of the children.”
In media relations, reporters are like the person next to you in the lively bar. Inundated with PR pitches, they develop an exquisite sensibility for the caller’s credibility and can also tell almost instantly if your story will work.
That’s why the pitch’s first moments become the most crucial. To help achieve pitch success, here are five hidden pathways to more effective media relations.
- Don’t waste important time on long introductions. They waste time. Abandon your ego. Use first name only and say your organization quickly. If the story’s good, whether it came from Edelman of Schmedelman is irrelevant: “This is X from Y, and I have a good story about Z for you.’ There you have the Blink moment. A brief hint of the idea, with minimal time about you. (Some contend that the media encounter should build and reveal the story over time. Vigorously avoid this temptation. There is a very limited window: maybe a minute or less. In an oral or written pitch, reveal your story at the beginning).
- Fake it to make it. This is something often heard about career success. It applies here: attitude is everything. Be super confident but enunciate clearly, as though you have the best story that ever lived. Apply an emotional boost with your delivery to make your pitch appear as not just a run-of-the mill PR pitch.
- Avoid rote recitation. (If someone is reading a canned presentation, it’s so apparent, and that’s unequivocally true in the media encounter. In fact, it’s a number one turnoff for most reporters so don’t do it. Learn your messages and facts, and speak naturally.
- Control the encounter. For inspiration, look at Patrick “Puddy” Warburton’s: Control Enthusiast’s Guide to Life. Reporters often enjoy seeing you squirm or might feel chatty but you never know when they might be interrupted, hang up or just dump the call for spite or boredom. If you feel it going away from the story, bring it back. Be respectful but move it back into play and avoid too much personal information. You know where that might lead.
- Lastly, know when the pitch is accepted. Listen carefully. Don’t lose the moment by keeping it up once you’ve scored. That’s the time for logistics, how the interview proceeds, when it happens, and with what source