When I was a reporter, I hated getting phone calls. In fact, I was very proactive about calling people who wanted or needed to hear from me, just so they wouldn’t call me. The reason I didn’t like receiving phone calls as a reporter is the same reason I don’t like calling reporters. But now, since I joined “the dark side,” (reporter to publicist) it’s my job to call reporters. A nameless reporter from the Washington Post ripped me a new one recently when I called her to follow up on a pitch. I knew exactly who she was, what she has written about, followed her on Twitter, and why she’d be interested in what I had to tell her. Clearly, this wasn’t a random call. Still, she was extremely rude, showed no common courtesy, or phone etiquette… which is shocking from someone in the communications industry. This experience led me to start a discussion with other PR professionals and reporters from across the country. While some say, “Don’t call a reporter. They hate that! Just send an e-mail,” others say, “I’ve built great relationships with reporters over the phone that have turned into great coverage for my client.” So, this isn’t a black or white/right or wrong issue… which makes my job even harder.
Why I didn’t like receiving phone calls as a reporter is exactly why I don’t like calling reporters
- Phone calls can rarely be timed right.
- Phone calls can be unproductive.
- Phone calls are time consuming.
- It can all be put in an e-mail.
Me: “I sent a lot of e-mails, but didn’t get many responses.” Client: “Did you follow up?” Me: “Yes, I followed up with an e-mail, but that was ignored too.” Client: “Did you call?” Me: “Oh no, I can’t call. Reporters hate that!”How terrible is that?! You can’t tell a client that. That is why phone calls are necessary, even if nine times out of 10, you know the person on the other line doesn’t want to talk to you… and may be downright mean and call you names. It’s okay, when I was a reporter, people were rude and called me names too. Now, instead of getting it from alleged criminals with a microphone I’m sticking in their face, I’m getting it from reporters… my former self. (Note: I was never rude to publicists when they called me. It’s just not necessary. Not then, not now.)