Recently, I fulfilled a childhood dream of touring a television studio and watching broadcast anchors deliver the news—I visited WUSA 9 CBS headquarters as part of a Washington Women in Public Relations (WWPR) event. I have been interested in broadcast journalism from a young age when I would pretend to be an on-air reporter for my local news station. I would sit behind my Playskool table and talk to my audience of one—usually my younger brother—about the highlights of my day.
Today, as a recent college graduate and a newcomer to the public relations industry, I am more interested in increasing visibility for my clients’ issues and stories on TV. Luckily for me, at the WWPR event, I learned firsthand from CBS producers, assignment editors and on-air reporters what they like to see in pitches and how they like to be pitched. I discovered six top tips to successfully pitch broadcasters:
- Don’t be cookie cutter: Have a new story idea. The WUSA 9 panelists mentioned that Washington D.C. is the most connected digital market in America. Here, you will find more residents with their heads buried in their tablet or smartphone than any other city.With the evolution of a 24-hour news cycle and audiences constantly being plugged in, this impacts what type of story to pitch to TV producers or reporters.If you are pitching via email, be creative with your subject line and offer the person a fresh way of interpreting the story. These little details will go a long way when pitching a broadcaster.
- Be the expert for a breaking news story. Not that long ago, people only heard about breaking news on the evening news or in the newspaper the following day. Today, since news is reported as it happens, TV producers and reporters are constantly looking for experts who can immediately comment on a breaking issue or event. It is your job to find a different angle and become the expert. That is what will make you stand out to a reporter.
- Tweet your ideas to an individual reporter or producer. Studio producers, editors and on-air reporters get close to 5,000 emails per day (yes, you read that correctly). Want a way to cut through the email clutter and flatter someone too? Take advantage of social media platforms to reach broadcasters with your story idea or expert source: tweet at them! A short and succinct, 140 character message will force you to summarize your story in the simplest and most interesting terms and catch a producer’s eye quicker than an email. Who wouldn’t appreciate that?
- Pitch stories, especially features, in advance of a large event. If a reporter has more time to prepare, he or she is more likely to cover your story (this is especially true for a mid-day newscast that features human interest stories, according to the WUSA 9 panelists). This will allow the reporter to really understand the event and determine where it might fit within a particular news segment. If a broadcaster is willing to discuss the event before it even happens, consider that a huge win! This will give time for the audience to purchase tickets and make plans to attend the event. Bottom line: you get coverage for your event and the reporter gets a great story.
- Try pitching a junior producer. As previously mentioned, reporters get massive amounts of emails every day. Instead of sending your idea to the boss, send your idea to someone junior. A junior producer for the 6:00 p.m. evening news at WUSA 9, for example, receives around 2,000 emails per day (hey, that’s 3,000 emails less than a reporter, right?) and may be more inclined to speak up about your idea during a staff meeting.(Talk about a “I scratch your back, you scratch mine” scenario!) You will make the junior staffer look good because you will have pitched them a strong and unique story, and your client will be excited when they end up on TV – not to mention you will be able to continue building a relationship with the junior or associate producer.
- Nothing beats a cold call when it comes to pitching broadcast journalists. While many print reporters prefer emails, the WUSA 9 staff agrees that a telephone call often does the trick in the broadcasting industry. Be sure to have materials ready-to-send for immediate follow-up after.
Whether you have worked in media relations for 10 days or 10 years, these tips will help you successfully pitch your client’s stories to TV producers, assignment editors and on-air reporters, build key relationships with these important media contacts, and ultimately generate coverage for that important issue or product.
Until next time… that’s a wrap folks!