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Telephone calls that get results

January 20th, 2005

Dr Petra

If you’re a journalist or researcher there are two essential phrases you need when you’re telephoning someone…
- My name is _____, and I’m calling from_____
- Is it a convenient time to call?

This applies whenever you’re making contact, but is particularly important if you’re calling outside business hours (9-5pm) or at weekends.

This approach is drummed into social researchers. We’re only allowed to call people once we’ve got ethical clearance to do so, and things like introducing yourself and checking if it’s a good time to call is polite, ensures no one’s time is wasted, and reduces the likelihood of causing someone distress or being a nuisance.

Okay, some researchers don’t always get it right, and it’s a skill that managers need to be aware of and teach. However, it is expected. It should also be common in journalism training, but doesn’t always happen.

What myself and colleagues often get from journalist callers is a breathy and rushed…

“Hi I’m __________ calling from_________ where________ suggested I call you because you’re really good, and I’d like to talk to you about_______________________________
because our editor thinks_______________. Do you think that’s right or are there any statistics to back it up? And if you can help now that would be fantastic or another time would be good as well”.

You don’t have time to get a word in to say you’re in the middle of something, that it’s not convenient or could they call back? Which is why some people get annoyed, upsetting the caller and possibly meaning they lose a contact.

Being concise at the start of your call won’t mean you lose the contact. You’ll just be sure they’re okay to talk (or know a good time to call back).

And if you’re someone who talks to the media…
You should be clear about your availability. The media works 24/7, so if people have your contact details and a knowledge you’re happy to talk, they may assume this means whenever they need to speak with you. If you don’t want calls outside work hours, or during weekends, then make this clear on your answering machine or website – or screen your calls.

While people who mess up their pitch when they’re calling might be annoying, it’s hardly fair to blame them if they call when you’re not willing to talk, but you’ve never made that clear.

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