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 ...


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.'


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?'



'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



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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