Is it wrong for PRs to contact journos by phone these days?

Today it’s fast becoming the rule that PR agencies should never bother journalists by phone.  But is it really possible to handle all your communications with editors purely through email and Twitter? I’m not so sure.
PR agencies using the telephone

Just last week a phone call I made to a features editor who hadn’t replied to several of my emails resulted in her asking me to prepare an article for her magazine. She admitted that she’d ‘filed’ my email to look at later, but “the truth is I often never get round to looking at those mails, so thanks for calling to nudge me.”

So there you have it: proof that relying totally on email or social networks can mean lost PR opportunities.

The problem is that journalists regularly request PRs to contact them only be email – because trying to deal with 100s of PR calls a day would be simply unmanagebale.

On the other hand, a high profile technology journalist and blogger revealed to me at an event recently that while he publicly discouraged PR phone calls, he often appreciated the odd call if someone had a genuinely good story or idea.  And I’ve come across  some journalists who say they deliberately cultivate a ‘gruff’ phone manner for PRs as a way of filtering out the less dogged ones.

So it’s difficult to judge whether to pick up the phone or not.  But my experience is that many journalists get so many email pitches these days that sometimes a short, well timed phone call with an appropriate story or feature idea can be a good way to get noticed. And often a phone call can actually save time and prove more effective for both PR and journalist: you can thrash out an idea between you, agree the finer details and deadlines and have everything agreed within a single call.

Using the phone is a bit of dying art in PR.  But used effectively – and sparingly – it can and does produce results that you might otherwise miss.

Photo credit:Michael Pujals


One Response to “Is it wrong for PRs to contact journos by phone these days?”

  1. paul rayment says:

    I come from a sales background (fair while ago) and have never had a problem with the phone but know some PROs that are terrified of it, especially at the start.

    The point should that you treat journos different depending on what they like. I’ve managed to sell in a story on Twitter before but that’s because the journo liked Twitter and it was a story I knew would be good for them. You will fail A LOT at selling in a story by phone/email/social if it isn’t right for them so I try and find out as much about them as possible, sometimes by phone before any pitch.

    I’d never say don’t phone. I had one instance where a journo had disregarded the story due to space in the magazine but I managed to talk her in to uploading it online while I was on the phone to her. If I hadn’t called it would have got nothing.

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