You’re trying to pitch ten reporters on your story. Your boss wants results today. Wants to know who you’ve talked to, what they said. “Were they interested?” “When do they want to talk to us?” “Maybe I should give her a call too and talk about what questions she’s going to ask?,” he says. And all the sudden you feel like your head might actually explode.
Because in reality, you didn’t actually get any of the reporters on the phone. In fact, your call got transferred around so many times that you only got to even talk to two of the stations before they were telling you everyone was already gone for the day.
The key is to create for yourself a malleable, organized database. The more detailed notes you can keep on a specific station, and its specific reporters, the easier you are making your job in the future. There are no blanket rules for how to reach all reporters. Generally speaking though, there are good and bad times to call. Don’t call trying to pitch an “evergreen” story at 8:15 a.m. on a weekday. If you have timely or breaking news, or a spokesperson who can offer valued insight into a breaking news story, that’s a different story. Call away – they’ll want to hear from you.
If you are pitching a story that you have a few days or weeks lead time on, however, try to wait until after the busy morning rush, but before all the reporters who get up at 2:30 a.m. to be in the studio for the morning show leave to go home for the day. Just after 10:00 a.m. local time seems to be the sweet spot. It’s not full-proof, he or she may have already left, or they may rush you off the phone and tell you to call back because they’re on deadline, but generally we have found that to be a key window to reach who you need to talk to.
All of this when-to-catch-reporters advice is fine and dandy, but the most important advice I can give you is practice makes perfect. Practice exactly what you are going to say when you finally get reporter Dave to answer your call. Keep it short, succinct and newsworthy. Answer the following questions: who are you, what is the purpose of your call (i.e. you have an interview you thought he would be interested in), who your expert is, what they are available to specifically talk about, why it is newsworthy, why he should care, and when specifically Dave can talk to your expert. Finally, ask him if it’s something he thinks he might be interested in or if he has any further questions.
Believe it or not, this entire exchange can be done in about 25 seconds. That is if. you. have. rehearsed. your. pitch. Reporters will appreciate your professionalism, your brevity, and your respect for their time.