06 Jul How to overcome the fear of talking to journalists at live events
If you freak out at the thought of having to pitch to journalists in the flesh, then here are four tips on getting it right.
I’m due to attend a workshop and networking event in London next week, Janet Murray’s Soulful PR Live, and from the chatter in our community Facebook group I can sense the fear of delegates about being put in a room with real live journalists and having to pitch their stories to them. These other small business entrepreneurs have all achieved amazing things in their professional lives, but the prospect of having to promote themselves to members of the press is enough to send many into a minor nervous meltdown.
Sound familiar? Follow this simple checklist and be prepared to PR yourself with aplomb.
Do your research prior to attending a live event
Most networking events and conferences will publish a list of other delegates and speakers in advance. It’s a worthwhile exercise setting aside a little time beforehand to research the journalists attending, and to find out what they’ve been writing about. (Like everyone running their own small business, I’m flat out with client work, so I’ve scheduled time the weekend before Soulful PR Live to do this, without work distractions.)
Take a look at what they’re tweeting about, Google them and read their articles. Better yet, spend your time on the train to the event reading the publication/s they write for. If they work in broadcast, try and watch or listen to a show that they’ve produced. This will stand you in good stead not only for finding common ground to talk about, but also in identifying stories that might grab their attention. If nothing else, you’ll at least know what they look like!
Think of a few questions you’d like to ask on the day
How often do you get the chance to sit down with a journalist? This is a golden opportunity to find out what makes them tick, and how to stand the best chance of getting coverage in their media outlet.
Questions needn’t be too tricky…
What’s the best day of the week to contact you?
Do you prefer email or phone call when someone’s pitching an idea?
What kind of stories are you interested in hearing about?
Janet Murray has produced this handy prompt sheet:
She has also written a blog post on 7 non-sucky networking tips for live events – much of this applies to mixing with journalists too. Especially the need to avoid a hard sell. There’s nothing more squirm-inducing at a media networking event than witnessing a journalist being talked at.
Have a couple of ideas up your sleeve ready to pitch
Whilst doing your research, try and come up with half a dozen story ideas around your business that could be appropriate for the journalists you’ll be meeting. This is a great opportunity to test them out; if they don’t look interested, move on to another idea.
Being prepared will help prevent you getting stage fright. But don’t forget, no-one knows your business as well as you do! And ideas may spring to mind whilst chatting to, and most importantly, listening to a journalist. You’ll hopefully find that ideas will come to you during and after the event. And a journalist will be more receptive to reading your email having met you.
Remember, journalists are people too. Just because they hold the power to publish your story doesn’t make them divine beings. The fact that they’re at an event is a good sign that they’re interested in connecting. Journalists have pages, websites or airtime to fill, and are on the lookout for good stories; you can help them.
There are going to be delegates at Soulful PR Live with a really diverse range of experiences of PR and Press. The speakers know this is an event for small business owners, and won’t be expecting any polished pitches (in fact, they’ll probably like you more for not being a PR, we have a really bad rep!).
Some of the best conversations I’ve had with journalists have been nothing to do with pitching my clients; that comes later once you’ve built a rapport.
If you’re going to #SPRLive17, don’t forget to come over and connect with me on Twitter and say helloooo on the day (I won’t be wearing green, but I will probably have my glasses on).