Whichever way you decide to go -- do-it-yourself of professionally-assisted -- if you want to generate more interviews and media success, you’ll want to steer clear of these harmful (and potentially fatal) rookie blunders.
1. Be hard to reach.
Journalists have demanding deadlines. If you’re unavailable, they’ll quote the person who was. And they’ll go back to that person when they need a resource in the future.
Make yourself accessible and do what you say you’re going to do. If you promise to send supporting materials by a certain time and day, be sure you are on time and on target. Offer to be available, outside of standard business hours. They will come back to a source they can depend on.
2. Pitch to the wrong person or place.
This is totally disrespectful and shows you are not familiar with the writer and/or the outlet. Instead: Do your research. Familiarize yourself with the journalist or outlet. Read and listen so that you don’t pitch topics that aren’t valuable to their audience -- or something the journalist or outlet just recently covered.
3. Send boring, evergreen ideas.
Instead: Send a brief pitch or story idea, making every word count. Use a strong headline as your hook. Be sure your pitch answers the questions “why should I write/cover this topic now?” and “how will this help my readers/audience?”
4. Incessantly toot your own horn.
Journalists are looking for quality content that will appeal to their readership. If you can give them that, then you are promoting yourself without a hard sell.
To stand out from the crowd: Find a unique angle to pitch. Keep an idea file to inspire you. Work in some statistics or client stories. Talk about economic trends or industry trends and how they affect the outlet’s readers/viewers.
5. Neglect to prepare for an interview or show up late.
Just like you wouldn’t go into a meeting with a client late or without preparation, you shouldn’t go into an interview without being ready, focused and on time. Believe it or not, #5 on our “Don’t List” happens more often than you might imagine.
Instead: Get ready for the interview. Find out what the journalist wants to cover. Think about the best way to respond, and work from your notes. Provide quality answers. Have some good statistics and colorful quote or client stories ready.
Know your topic and if you can’t answer a question, refer them to someone who can (for instance, a strategic partner who would be happy to be a part of the story), or offer to provide them with an answer later. Then make sure you do get back to them as soon as possible.
6. Require an interview you when you could answer with a brief email.
Remember, journalists are working against the clock. Package your information efficiently to make their lives easier.
7. If you decide to call and pitch a story idea on the phone, don’t drone on and on.
Instead: get right to the point. State your name and company and say you are calling with a story idea on xyz topic. Ask if now is a good time to talk. If yes, start with your most compelling comments first; talk for one minute and ask if he or she would like you to go on. If now is not a good time to talk, find out when would be a better time and offer to call back then; keep your word.
8. If you are meeting in person, don’t ask if you can take your picture with them or try to buy them an expensive meal.
It’s not that they don’t like to socialize or be friendly, but journalists need to maintain some semblance of distance and objectivity.
Once the interview or meeting has taken place, send a brief recap via email. Many writers appreciate it when you can give them a written comment they can use. Be sure you include a complete e-signature with every communication. Include your mobile information if you are willing to work with them after standard business hours.