A bad day at the hairdressers

Tomorrow's Business

A reader asks: how soon after answering the phone can you tell whether the PR person is going to be worth talking to or not? Fifteen seconds? I’d say more like ten. Sometimes five.

The ones you can tell are going to be worth it, or at least not deserving of immediate dismissal, are either people you know well, or people who sound professional. They call at the right time. They sound confident. They get to the point immediately. If it’s a no-go, they get that sense fast. They might pick up a tip. Such as, it’s not for me, but why not try so-and-so?

The bad ones, and there is way too much of this, routinely call on deadline. About something they sent you yesterday. They have a long windy introduction which includes the incomprehensible name of a PR firm of which you’ve never heard. They seem to have a strange concern with how I am. Is everything ok? Am I going on holiday this year? It’s like a bad day at the hairdressers.

There also seem to be an awful lot of “likes” and “umms”. Like umm, I was just wondering, like, do you write about garden sheds? Like, no. I don’t. Can’t you check that first?

I’m not saying hacks are perfect. We can waffle as much as anyone. But I don’t think many of us ring up strangers without having an idea why we are ringing them and what we want to ask.

Practice your pitch. If it’s longer than ten seconds, cut back.

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