The Papyrus Files: Cold call voicemails
The other day I had three meetings before 1 p.m. and when I finally got back to my desk to find the red voicemail light on my phone, all I really wanted to do was smash it into the wall. (It takes 7-13 steps to access VM versus 0-3 to access email — believe you me, I’ve counted.) Meanwhile, on the email front, I’d answered all my urgent messages and Blackberried an author and producer several times, managing to confirm an interview while on the subway (IRT lines are pretty darn close to the surface) or in my last meeting (even though I was running it). Needless to say, given my visceral hatred of voicemail, I very rarely inflict that torture upon editors / producers when cold calling (and in just the last few days a couple publicists have mentioned they too no longer leave voicemail when pitching).
So I thought it might be helpful to start a discussion about when to leave a voicemail. I do, in fact, leave phone messages when a) I already know the person or b) I’m already working with the person or c) I’ve already emailed the person to no avail. But to call a person I don’t know to tell them about something they don’t know about when they are possibly on deadline seems like a waste of time for all of us (unless you happen to be contacting someone who has expressed a preference for phone calls). A couple years back I was at a PPA / Publishers Publicity Association luncheon and one of the panelists mentioned that when she gets back from lunch she often finds herself with a couple dozen voicemail messages from folks like us asking if she received a book / is going to cover a book. A couple more PPA panelists have told us they can either answer our calls or do their jobs. Think about it — how many times has your cold call voicemail been returned?
In this day and age of IM, live blogging, texting, wall posts, PDAs, Twitter, WiFi and email pushed to cell phones, a cold call voicemail — with no initial indication of who called, when, what the message is or how urgent it is — is akin to launching a carrier pigeon with a piece of paper afixed to its leg. (Although if I had an actual carrier pigeon land on my desk then yes, I would find it within me to check its message although I would still be pretty annoyed if the message was any less urgent than, say, THE BRITISH ARE COMING!!!) The point is, you may think it’s easier to leave a voicemail than to type up an email to a journalist, but think about what’s easier for them — having to dial in several codes and listen to a message that may need to be replayed several times or reading the subject line of an email? I personally loathe having to write down voicemail messages with my quill. And I’m running out of papyrus …