As a former TV producer, I worked with great PR professionals who helped me find experts and interesting stories for my shows, often at a moment’s notice.
I also dealt with many PR people who had bad timing and
bad story suggestions; they were doubly clueless.
Recently, I was with a group of friends—TV producers, anchors, and reporters—when the topic of bad pitches came up. We laughed about the lazy ones, and others that were just plain bad. It’s a well-tread topic, blogs, websites and even Twitter feeds (such as @DearPR
) cover the topic regularly.
I thought I’d focus on five things to do right
. Here are tips from my TV friends and I:
1. DVR the program you want to pitch for a week.
The No. 1 PR complaint from TV professionals is being pitched stories and guests that don’t match up with their shows’ topics, format, or time slots. When I was a morning show producer at a local network affiliate
, publicists often suggested guests for cooking segments. But my show didn’t have guests and we certainly didn’t have a demo kitchen.
A morning show segment producer
whom I work with often wishes PR people understood that the harder-hitting stories typically come earlier in the broadcast and topics get fluffier as the show goes on.
“Know that we don’t do style segments at 7:55 a.m.,” he suggests.
If you want to actually land an interview, DVR the program for a week and study it. Understand how to make a concise suggestion on where your idea fits and who would be the appropriate anchor or reporter to tell it.
2. Avoid pitching a competitor’s story.
One of my dear friends who produces a brilliant show on CNN
recently forwarded me an email she received offering guest commentary on a developing news story that CNN was covering. The sender started the email by citing stories on the topic from other competing networks. TV producers don’t want to be sent stories done by their competition, and they certainly don’t want to repeat another station’s story.
You wouldn’t pitch The Wall Street Journal
by sending them a New York Times
story. Don’t do it with broadcast either.
3. Know the shifts.
If you want to land the “Today
” show, understand what time the show is on the air and don’t bother to call producers then. Observe the Twitter feed of the producer with whom you are trying to connect to learn when they are clearly near their desk. Or even better, just ask when they typically have a few minutes to chat.
4. Listen for names—and use them appropriately.
My husband, David
, is a TV news anchor and gets dozens of pitches every day that should go to the assignment desk or a producer. That’s not the problem, though. The issue is the fake personalization of emails that begin with “Hi Dave.” No one except his friends from high school and his parents ever call him that. Immediate delete.
Before you pitch a TV reporter or anchor, watch the program and see what the other personalities on the show call him or her. Don’t pretend to be friends. The same goes with producers; don’t pretend to be long-lost pals if you’ve sent them an email once or twice. Be real and have a good story for them.
5. Know that the Facebook wall is off limits.
One of my friends has been pitched on his Facebook page. Aggressively calling and emailing a person to get them to hear your pitch is one thing, but don’t cross the line to stalker. If you have connected on Twitter, direct messages are OK. But Facebook is different. It’s personal.
Francy Wade is a director at Inkhouse in Boston. Follow her on Twitter @francywade. A version of this story first appeared on the Inkhouse blog, Inklings.