Lessons for PR from a Winning Sales Team
By Dan Viron
Sales teams and PR professionals have more in common than most people might think.
We all pitch stories. Sales teams pitch products or services and try to close deals. In PR, we pitch media to secure coverage.
Take a high-level overview of the sales process. It’s easy to pinpoint the similarities:
The media pitch process doesn’t look much different from what a good salesperson does. The PR professional will identify the proper influencers and publications to reach out to. They will tailor their media pitches to create value, not only for themselves but the journalist or influencer they are working with. Some will use the story and some won’t.
Thinking through it along these lines, it’s not much of a stretch to say that PR is a sales job. We’re in the business of selling ideas to publications and building relationships with influencers. Once we think of PR this way, it can change how we approach our work.
What makes a winning sales team successful? It’s much more than just having the confidence to make a cold call.
How to Sell Your Media Pitch
Leverage Your Relationships
Network as much as possible. Attend conferences, attend workshops, attend industry events. Don’t be afraid to ask a journalist to grab a coffee! Take advantage of the relationships you establish early on in your career by maintaining contact. Do your best to meet with journalists face-to-face. A phone call should be second and an email third.
Know Who You’re Speaking To
Research. Research. Research. Who are you speaking to and why? Thoroughly learn everything you can about their interests, their needs, and their audience. Read past stories they’ve written and follow their social accounts. This allows you to craft an effective pitch that will resonate with the person you’re speaking to.
Pick Up the Phone
Many journalists don’t have time to respond, let alone open an email. To make the most of their time and to increase your chances of a response, pick up the phone. Formulate a thoughtful introduction and follow with your pitch. You probably have about 15 seconds to grab the person’s attention. Personalize your pitch and make it unique. Journalists love this approach—they don’t have time to filter through all the irrelevant content filling up their inboxes. It’s easier for a journalist to say “no” over email than over the phone.
Always follow-up after your pitch. By now, you should know journalists have a ton of pitches to filter through. Stay persistent and persuasive and explain the benefits of picking up your story. Give them concrete reasons why your story is better than anyone else’s. There is also a fine line between being persistent and being annoying. Give the journalist a few days to process your pitch. If they sound busy, don’t take up too much of their time, and if the journalist says no, ask them why. As with sales, rejection is par for the course in PR. Turn it into a learning experience by using the opportunity to ask what future topics they would be interested in.
Take Advantage of Your Opportunities
If you get the chance to speak with a journalist on the phone or meet face-to-face, take respectful advantage of their time. The key is not to be a great speaker, but to be a great listener. Ask good questions and take notes. They’re going out of their way to speak with you. There’s only one chance to make a first impression, so be mindful of their time, takes notes throughout the discussion, arrive prepared, and focus on their interests and needs, more than your own.
Results don’t happen overnight. It’s inevitable that you will face rejection. Remain patient and develop thick skin. Turn every failed attempt into a learning experience and come back stronger.
You’re ultimately selling a story. Your pitch is your product. The journalists are your prospects. Be persistent, persuasive, and stay confident. Be the best salesperson you can be!