All this week, I’m reproducing parts of a Q-and-A session with SCG Legal PR Network founder Paramjit Mahli about my former career in legal journalism and what legal marketers could learn from it. Today’s exchange: the phone pitch.
Q. What made you open and receptive to a telephone pitch? How did you prefer to be approached?
Telephone pitches are risky, for the same reason that telemarketer calls are risky – not many people like taking a call from a stranger who’s trying to sell them something. I’d advise a legal PR professional to start with a prior email identifying yourself, stating concisely what you’d like to talk about, and saying that you’ll be calling within the next 24 hours in hopes we can talk about it. Make the email professional yet friendly – you’re introducing yourself and laying the groundwork for a productive phone call.
In order for me to take a pitch over the phone even halfway seriously, I needed some prior knowledge of who the caller was, a sense of exactly what they intended to pitch, and confidence that they were specifically interested in my specific magazine. I hated wasting my time on the phone with someone who was just making the rounds of the legal periodicals with a one-size-fits-all pitch, or who didn’t understand what kinds of pieces appear in the magazine. If someone could prove to me, in a few words, that they knew the publication and could pinpoint exactly the right place where their piece could make it a better issue, I would pay attention. I have to say, though, that was an extremely rare occurrence.
I can’t count how many times I saw or heard the phrase “I thought you might be interested” in pitches. You can’t afford to “think” a journalist “might” be interested. You’ve got to know that what you have to offer is so well aligned with what that journalist needs that you’re certain this is a guaranteed winner for everyone. You have to be in the business of providing solutions to the media outlets with which you work, because while it might be the lawyer who pays your bills, it’s the journalist who has what you need.