Sink or swim.
That’s what I heard over and over, in conversations with my bosses, in team meetings, when someone was let go.
I didn’t dare ask for help. Instead, I started ducking into conference rooms when I needed to pitch a story idea to a reporter, so no one would overhear me.
I think I wanted to get fired.
Even so, I did my job. I picked up the phone and made the calls.
Every time I called a reporter, I worked up these nightmare scenarios. I just knew a journalist was going to scream at me for wasting his time, or email my boss and demand I never contact her again. I had to psych myself up before I could even touch the phone. When I was in college, I did collections for a cable company, and this was surely better. I believed in the stories I was pitching, didn’t I?
Maybe. Maybe not. I went into public relations, because I thought it’d give me a chance to be creative, to do a lot of writing. Also, a woman at a temp agency told me my creative writing degree meant that the other PR girls would never view me as competition. I wanted to prove her wrong.
I never anticipated how much I’d feel like a salesman.
Still, I made my calls.
Much to my surprise, I never got yelled at or chewed out by a reporter. Even more shockingly, reporters and producers sometimes ran my stories.
I stuck with it. I started experimenting. And I learned some things:
- Crafting a small, focused media list is always more effective than buying one with hundreds of contacts.
- It’s important to research your contact and the media outlet before you send an email or make a phone call.
- The hook is the most important part of your pitch.
In order to get publicity, you have to think like a journalist.
This takes practice. You’re probably not going to get it right with your first pitch. And even when you crack the code, there are hundreds of reasons that have nothing to do with you why your story might not run. Maybe a tsunami hits that day. Or someone famous gets busted.
But now you’re officially out of excuses. Because, I just gave you more insight into how to approach the media than I had when I made my first 100 phone calls.
It’s time to start swimming.