Pitching to journalists: Make more impact on the phone

01 Aug 2013 by Sarah Leembruggen.

Journalists are not known for their patience on the phone. A busy newsroom takes hundreds of calls a day so you’ve got limited time to sell your story. Keeping the caller engaged enough to get the coverage you want, will ultimately come down to how you use your voice.


We’re all constantly on the phone and yet we don’t always know how to use our voices effectively.  If you’re pitching a story to journalists it can be hard to deliver your message under pressure, without the benefit of non-verbal communication like, eye contact, body language and facial expression. Your voice is your only tool, so you need to think about how you perform when you call a newsroom.  

  1. Use your voice: Smile and sit up as you speak; it will help you sound confident and positive. Don’t rush or ramble. Think about the qualities of your voice as you speak and adapt your tone and intonation to suit each call.


  1. Be succinct: Keep your introduction brief. If your story isn’t relevant to the newsroom you’re calling you’ll get short shrift. Speak to the right desk or reporter and find a hook for your news release that will give you a strong ‘in’.


  1. Humour helps: Keep it light and strike up some banter if you can. Avoid excessive use of ‘err’ or ‘um’ and enunciate. Be clear and polite but not scripted.


  1. Think ahead: Most journos will ask you to email them the information to save time engaging on the phone. Be prepared to back up your reason for calling – pick out some detail in the press-release to tempt them with a strong interview or enticing top-line.


  1. Time it right: Check you aren’t calling at deadline time and don’t try to over engage someone who really isn’t interested.


  1. Take the test: Mock up a call and record it. How do you really sound? Could you improve your technique? Have you got the right pace, style and approach?  It might be a cringey exercise, but you’ll definitely benefit from it.



What tips do you have to help you build rapport on the phone? Tell us @theworksrecruit.

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