Every company has a story to tell. As a former news assignment editor at a local television station, I have heard thousands of story pitches from public relations folks. While these professionals are often passionate and determined to promote the brands they represent, the reality is journalists and editors spend their days monitoring breaking news and planning ahead for seasonal trends and anticipated events.
In the newest data collected by Cision in their 2019 State of the Media Report, they discovered that 75 percent of journalists feel that less than 25 percent of the pitches they received were relevant to stories they cover. With that in mind, here are four helpful tips brands and their public relations representatives should keep in mind when trying to gain local broadcast media’s attention.
Keep it local
The most important thing to remember is to keep the story pitch local. These stations care about local stories sparking the most impact and interest from viewers. What does the story pitch tell the audience that hasn’t already been said? Did the story result in something positive for the community? How many people are going to be affected by this story?
Also, if pitching a general story idea that’s not necessarily breaking, make sure the office or event is within a reasonable distance of the news station. If in fact the station is interested in your angle, they certainly do not want to drive forty-five minutes or longer to get to you. In some cases, this could work depending on the market each station is located and if the story is deemed exclusive, guaranteeing to elevate above their competition’s ratings for that day or week.
Time it out
Stations typically have three team meetings per day. Timing for your stories is very important depending on the type of story you’re pitching. If you’re pitching a general story with no time stamp on it, it doesn’t matter when you contact the news desk or a reporter. If you’re pitching an event, in my experience, team meetings typically happen between these times: 8:30-9:30AM, 12:30-1:30pm and 3:30-4:30pm. Give or take, every station’s agenda could change depending on breaking news, but again, timing is everything.
For events, send the information to the news desk or planner a week in advance, since the desk is your go-to when requesting coverage. They control the cameras and they influence the reporters and managing editors. Then, on event day, be cautiously persistent.
Be persistent but not clingy
I’ve seen many emails get tossed to the trash because of the aggressive persistence from some brands and public relations representatives. Ideally, you want the news desk to be your best friend. So by sending one email, editors will see it and then decide its worth. If it’s not an event or something with a date, it will often be overlooked unless the subject line and first sentence are creative, interesting and in touch with the news of the day.
When engaging local media, whether in email or on a phone call, treat them like a friend and not like you just want something from them. The walls go straight up if the first line is, “I’m reaching out from XXX, and I want to see if you’re covering my event.” Know the tone in the newsroom before hassling the people between the pitch and the cameras. If someone answers flustered, make it brief and say you’ll send an email because they sound busy. They will appreciate that, and it provides a better chance of them reading the email. Be persistent when necessary but don’t jeopardize possible media relationships.
And remember: breaking news kills everything
It only takes one event to “kill” everything. Segments get blown out within minutes, even after shows have already started. Never get offended if your story or event gets “killed.” Sure, it isn’t ideal, but it happens all the time.
It goes back to resources. Some stations don’t have the staff, equipment or air time to cover all of the news of the day. They certainly have slow days, which is ideal, and you would typically have better luck on a slow day. Don’t be discouraged if someone tells you they have breaking news to attend to; they’re not lying.
Every story is worth a listen, assuming it has an interesting and relevant impact on the station’s audience. Just know how to highlight those factors in the pitch, and you can position your brand and story to attract local broadcast media attention.
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