OPINION: The Big Question - What are the tricks to leaving a compelling voice-mail message? Research published by Speak First claims that 75 per cent of journalists screen their calls through voice-mail, thus raising a thorny problem for PROs ..

ANNA BARLOW

ANNA BARLOW

London First

'The research findings surprise me because generally I find journalists no less accessible than anyone else and the best ones make sure they can be contacted. It's worth looking at the reasons why the press might be habitually fielding calls. They either want to manage their time more effectively or to prioritise quality leads. Part of building relationships with journalists is understanding how they work and what they want. Calling when they're hitting deadline won't enamour them to your cause. As for leaving pithy voice-mail messages, brevity is key. I would try to make the headline point immediately and always offer to call again. Whether presenting a new idea or following up on a release, it's vital to state your case clearly and keep the news value of your story in perspective.'



STEVEN DAY

Virgin Mobile

'The best way to get a journalist to call you back is , of course, to give them a free phone ... but we don't do that kind of thing at Virgin Mobile. We get to know our key journalists personally, which is always a bonus when the rest of a journalist's messages are from cold callers. A message should be brief and to the point, no rambling until the machine gets tired of you and cuts you ... Say exactly what you mean, say it succinctly - don't be too smarmy, and get off the phone sharpish. We wouldn't want the poor darlings paying a fortune in voice-mail costs would we?'



STUART NEILL

Adecco

'One might ask why journalists feel the need to screen their calls in the first place. Once you understand that, you'll better understand what you need to do to earn their attention. Journalists and PROs need each other in equal measure, but the onus is on us to convince our media friends to return our calls. Apply the basic rules of PR and only call to offer something genuinely newsworthy. If you do call, be precise, succinct and provide just enough information to hook the journalist, leaving them wanting to come back to you to get the rest of the information. Remember, leaving the message is like speaking directly to the journalist - you need to get it right first time. If you waste their time, then we'll all end up a deleted memory on a journalist's voice-mail.'



KEN ANDREW

London News Network

'My three voice-mail attention-grabbers are threats, intrigue and bribery: THREATS - always a double-edged sword. 'Hello Ken, you bastard. Whaddya mean by calling Liam Gallagher a no-brainer just down from the trees? That's the last time we let you interview Anthea Turner.' You see what I mean by a double-edged sword? INTRIGUE - but you can only hook them once if you fail to deliver. 'Hello Ken, I've got this belting tale. It's absolutely true and it won't cost you a penny. Give me a call - Max'. Name me one hack who hasn't been stung by that silver fox. BRIBERY - it's the journalist's G-spot. 'Hello Ken, did you enjoy the champagne you won (in PRWeek competition, Diary, 26 January)? Fancy writing a piece on voice-mail messages for no money?'. You see, bribery always works.'



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