Media relations is an exciting aspect of public relations. Nothing gets my blood pumping more than securing a TV segment or seeing a client grace the front page.
Working with the media takes patience, know-how, and a true understanding of an industry that revolves around deadlines and timing. Part of that understanding comes with crafting the perfect pitch.
Recently, I attended a Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) panel in which key players from local TV stations shared their tips for working with PR professionals, specifically pitching morning news and entertainment programs.
One thing they made clear: Gone are the days when the morning news served up the nightly news’ leftovers. Today, morning shows are more dynamic than ever, seeking fresh content and delivering stories people need to know to start their day.
It’s the job of morning news producers, editors, and anchors to deliver content that effortlessly mixes hard news with lighter content, capable of putting smiles on viewers’ faces. That’s where PR practitioners come in. News stations need help to find the stories people want to know about. And it all starts with the pitch.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when pitching morning shows:
Although this may seem obvious, it’s important that your story resonate with the stations’ viewership. Members of the PRSA panel also agreed that there is definitely a trend towards more local programming that features hyper-local content, which creates even more opportunities for PR professionals to tell our clients’ stories.
Depending on the news value of your story, the timing will change. If you are delivering breaking news content, make sure your pitch is sent first thing so it has a chance to appear in that day’s newscast.
If your story can wait, or is considered “soft news,” it might not receive airtime for several weeks and may require advance planning. As a rule of thumb, I generally pitch items for consumer-based clients several weeks in advance. These topics may be seasonal in nature, receive their own segment, or require more coordination.
Personalize your pitch.
One anchor from a local entertainment show said she receives pitches all the time addressed to her competitor’s station. In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to pitch the wrong show with the wrong station. However, this is a huge no-no and one that editors, reporters, and anchors in fiercely competitive markets do not take lightly.
It’s a sure-fire way to get your pitch sent straight to the trash as well as a costly mistake that could affect your relationship with the show.
To avoid mix-ups, know the show you are pitching. Each media outlet prides itself on having a different flavor, and it’s important as PR professionals that we recognize that. Within each station, each show is unique. Take the time to get to know the show you are pitching—its segments, talent, and featured content.
Be up front.
Don’t bury your angle beneath a wordy pitch or flashy packaging. If you have something great to say, announce it up front.
Each member of the panel shared experiences of pitches that took too long to get to the point, which ultimately led them to stop reading. Some PR professionals, on the other hand, get too caught up in a pitch’s presentation.
For example, one anchor shared an experience in which he was sent a basketball along with a video game; however, he received no information about what the product actually was or why it was sent to him. Instead of receiving airtime, the attempt now serves as an example of what not to do.
Morning shows love visuals. If you can tell your story visually, make sure to communicate that point immediately. I’ve learned to side-step the traditional “talking-heads” approach by offering up a fun demonstration, performance, or unique off-site interview location.
Tap social media.
Follow key media contacts on Twitter to stay informed on what they’re talking discussing for future story ideas and to connect with them. When the panel members were asked if they use social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook as a way to find stories, the answers were mixed, with an emphasis placed on using it as a way to discover and enhance breaking news stories and connect with viewers.
In some cases, the follow-up is just as important as the pitch itself. Most of the panel admitted to being buried on a daily basis with press releases and advisories. Following up either over email or on the phone is a great way to make sure your story stands out from the pack. The follow-up is also your chance to add a fresh angle to a story that isn’t receiving traction.
Do you have any advice for successfully pitching morning news and entertainment shows?
Julie Caan is a communications specialist at Vollrath Associates, Inc in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This blog first appeared on the agency’s blog Have You Had Your VA Today?