Silly questions, I know. Why don’t I just get to the point?
OK, here it is: When dialing up someone in the media, if you want to communicate with power and persuasion, then make sure they have at least 30 seconds to hear why you’re calling.
How I typically start: “Are you on deadline, or is this a good time to talk for 30 seconds?”
Such a courtesy signals that I know their world—and I am not about to waste their time. This simple question alone helps me stand apart from the publicist pack, many of whom are self-absorbed and long-winded, not even bothering to check if the journalist has time to talk.
After gaining initial buy-in (and be ready for some wiseguys to say, “OK, the clock’s going…now!”), then it’s crucial that you make good on the promise.
Succinctly and confidently explain why you are calling, and be ready to get off the phone within the time you’ve allotted. When I say 30 seconds, I mean it–I avoid saying “a minute” because people don’t literally mean 60 seconds when they trot out that phrase, and I want to be abundantly clear that I’ll be brief.
The phone call’s purpose is not to sell the journalist on pursuing a story, anyway. It’s simply to warm ’em up to the idea that the e-mail you’re about to send is worth serious consideration instead of the reflexive tap of the DELETE key.
Win that battle, keep the dialogue going, be sure to have compelling content in that e-mail, and at least you’ll have a fighting chance to get your story told.