The Phone: 19th Century Invention, Powerful 21st Century Media Relations Tool

October 21, 2019

In 1849 Italian-born inventor Antonio Meucci created the first basic telephone. Over the past 170 years, the telephone has evolved into a powerful communications tool that has changed dramatically in recent decades.

A phone isn’t just a phone. It’s your email, your Twitter and your texting service.

While we often talk about emails and tweets as great ways to communicate with the media that are scalable and easily trackable, they don’t necessarily lend themselves to significant relationship-building with members of the media.

Here are some tips for tackling what can be an intimidating situation:

  • Email first. Yes, email doesn’t necessarily lead to better relationships, but if there’s a reporter you want to share a story with, email them asking if they have time for a short phone call and try to set up a time to chat. Depending on the outlet, you may never know what their deadlines are for that day. They could be busy. They could be prepping for an interview. Give them a little space. However, if you do decide to cold call, start off your conversation with a “do you have a minute?”
  • Prepare yourself. With an email, you have all the time in the world to choose the perfect set of words to convey your story. However, in a phone conversation, you’ll have to anticipate a reporter’s questions and be prepared with answers before you pick up the phone. Also, be sure to write out what your call to action will be.
  • Turn rejection around. There is always a chance of rejection. It can sting even more in a phone conversation because it’s told to you directly, not by ignoring your email or a “thanks, but no thanks” sent to your inbox. However, this is where you can turn a rejection into a future possibility. Ask what the reporter is interested in. Do they want to write a story about a dwindling bird population, the dairy industry or healthy habits for kids? Keep in mind that if you ask this question you have to follow up with the reporter. Disappearing into the night is going to get you nowhere and may push you a couple of steps backward.

Picking up the phone can be uncomfortable, but it can help build relationships and your own reputation within your local media market and others with which you engage regularly.

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to the University Public Relations team at unews@umn.edu any time.