Practical advice for mastering the dreaded media sell-in
Whether you’re new to PR or are a seasoned pro, there’s one part of the job that most people find particularly daunting, and that’s the dreaded media sell-in.
Like with most things, the more you do them, the more comfortable you are doing them however, for many PR professionals, this isn’t the case with media sell-ins.
But why is that, when sell-ins are such an integral part of working in PR?
Perhaps it’s because of the fear of rejection that can be triggered when your press release gets turned down or the pressure of being able to get across what you want to get across before the journalist on the other end of the line tunes out to you.
While the use of email means that media sell-ins can be done by both email (**cue sigh of relief**) and telephone these days, there are still times, particularly when it comes to targeting the national media, when you’ve still got to do it the old-fashioned way and pick up the phone.
Having worked on both sides of the fence, as a journalist and agency-side PR manager for several years, here are my top tips for conquering media sell-ins:
TIP # 1: Plan what you’re going to say
Journalists are busy people, who are constantly working to the next deadline. They can be tricky to get hold of, what with them frantically typing up their latest headline story, sourcing that last-minute NIB for subs or being out-and-about at meetings, the pressure is non-stop.
So, if you’ve finally managed to pin down that elusive reporter you’ve been calling for the last few days, make sure you make the conversation count. It may sound like a basic bit of advice, but planning what you’re going to say to journalists to get them interested in your story or briefing before you pick up the phone is really important. There’s nothing more deflating than a journalist ending your conversation or saying ‘no thank you’ before you’ve got to the crux of your pitch.
TIP #2: Don’t have any gaps
Journalists are sticklers for detail. Getting facts for their stories is what they’re trained to do after all.
When you pitch to journalists, make sure you have a really good grasp of the story that you’re sharing with them (this is particularly key if you’re selling in a press release you’ve not written), so that if they do ask you any follow up questions, you can answer them there and then. Start to flounder, and you’ll immediately lose their interest. After all, why should they be interested in running your story if you don’t even fully know what it involves yourself?
It’s always useful to have a copy of your press release (with the key elements highlighted) in front of you during sell-ins. It’s also really handy to think of some of the questions you might get asked – and how you’re going to answer them – before you start your call.
TIP #3: Think like a journalist
Journalists are focused on providing their readers with articles that are relevant to them. You might have the most exciting story in the world, with the best imagery and exclusive sound bites, but if it’s not relevant to your target media’s readers, it won’t get picked up. This is particularly key when you’re targeting local or regional newspaper titles.
So, when you pick up the phone, make sure you don’t just hone in on why your story is such a great story, but how it specifically relates to the journalist’s readers. (For more information about thinking like a journalist, check out my How to: Think like a journalist guide I recently wrote for B2B Marketing).
I know I said at the start of this blog that journalists can be elusive creatures, but the best way to test if your stories are going to generate coverage, is to get hold of your target media and see what type of articles they like to receive and what they’re focusing on over the coming months (this is particularly useful for trade media). Yes, it does involve having to speak to journalists, but it’ll avoid you wasting hours writing and selling-in releases that aren’t going to be run. Furthermore, you’ll also be doing what good old media relations is all about, forging and developing relationships with the media.