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Here’s Why You Should Never Make Another Follow-Up Phone Call to a Journalist

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OK, hold on: that headline is a slight exaggeration (notice we said slight).

Friend of the show Ed Zitron‘s latest story for Inc. magazine concerns the tendency of otherwise knowledgable PRs to overuse that most arcane of communications tools. Plenty of people know that cold calling is a bad idea but do it anyway due to a combination of desperation and the fact that this is the way things have always been done.

But wait, you say: phones are essential to communications (which is what we’re all about)!

Zitron would beg to differ. The first two of his three points concern inter-agency communications, because messaging tools ensure that documents may be written and edited without the use of a phone, and everyone prefers in-person meetings to conference calls unless they’re physically unable to be present. That’s just human nature.

We’re most concerned with his last point: there’s a reason why a certain reporter’s voicemail message urges PR to hang up and send another email. Yes, we’re just a blog, but we can tell you from personal experience that journalists really, really hate it when you either pitch via phone (cold call) or follow up on an unanswered pitch with a surprise ring.

The “entitled PR” stereotype is annoying—but do you know what’s even more so? A person who doesn’t understand why you haven’t responded to tell him/her how much you just can’t wait to cover that previous pitch and chooses to follow up by calling to ask whether you received it—all while using a tone of voice that makes clear that he or she is not happy with you because God, why can’t you just take the story already? Who do you think you are?!

This has happened to us, and we know it’s much worse for reporters at major business magazines.

We’re gonna side with Ed here: the only time it’s acceptable to make a phone call to a media contact is if you’ve both already agreed to have the conversation, you have a well-established existing relationship with this contact, or this contact has made an egregious editorial error that must be corrected immediately.

Otherwise—and we speak on behalf of our fellow bloggers here—just don’t do it.

This is how the stereotypes start.

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