November 8, 2012 § Leave a comment
By: Julie Caan
At Vollrath Associates, we love working with the media. Being media junkies, nothing gets our blood pumping more than securing a TV segment or seeing our client grace the front page. Media relations is an exciting aspect of public relations, and one of the reasons we love coming to work each day. 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.
Team VA recently attended a Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Southeastern Wisconsin Chapter panel where key players from all four Milwaukee TV stations shared their tips for working with PR professionals, specifically pitching morning news and entertainment programs. 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 our help to find the stories people want to know about. And it all starts with the pitch.
Below are a few key takeaways to keep in mind when pitching morning shows (Milwaukee and beyond):
- Local. This one seems obvious, but it’s important that your story really resonate with the stations’ viewership. Take Superstorm Sandy for example. Was your company affected? Did it contribute to the relief effort? Members of the PRSA panel also agreed that there is definitely a trend towards more local programming featuring hyper-local content, which creates even more opportunities for PR professionals.
- Timely. 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 out first thing so that 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. At Vollrath Associates, we generally pitch items for our 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 shared that 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 a fiercely competitive market do not take lightly. This is 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. And within each station, each show is unique. Take the time to really 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, then say 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 where 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 being sent to him. Instead of receiving airtime, the attempt now serves as an example of what not to do.
- Incorporate Visuals. Morning shows love visuals. If you can tell your story visually, make sure to communicate that right away. In the past, we’ve side-stepped the traditional “talking-heads” approach by offering up a fun demonstration, performance or unique off-site interview location.
- Social Media. Follow key media contacts on Twitter to stay informed on what they’re talking about, future story ideas and as a way to personally connect with them. Media people, after all, are people too. J When asked if they use social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook as a way to find stories, the answers were mixed, with an emphasis placed on using social media as a way to discover and enhance breaking news stories and connect with viewers.
- Follow-Up. 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 local morning news and entertainment shows?