Lights … Camera … Action … TV Placements
Television segments have always been a highly desired media placement because of their significant visibility and prestige. And while getting local or national news shows to cover a story can be challenging, there are tricks-to-the-trade that have helped me secure many broadcast segments.
Who to pitch
Clients often ask “Why does it take so much time to pitch my story to TV news targets?” That really isn’t the right question to assess if your media relations representative is handling this task properly. A more relevant question is “How long did you spend researching the producers you are pitching?” Connecting with the appropriate newsroom contact is essential, and this requires researching what topics they cover to determine if your story is appropriate for them. A producer who oversees health stories won’t be interested in a new sneaker design just because people wear the product while exercising. A more effective approach would be to target the consumer products team about a round-up on the latest fitness apparel. You could also consider pitching business producers and reporters if the new sneaker represents a new business strategy for the maker. Bottom line — you’ll achieve better results pitching five highly targeted producers that cover your beat rather than 300 producers who do not.
When to pitch
Another important aspect of pitching TV is understanding the typical newsroom schedule. A newsroom is always busy, so there is never a great time to call. In most instances, early is better, especially in the case of daily news shows that assign stories during a morning meeting. The biggest no-no when pitching TV is DO NOT CALL WHILE THE TARGETED SHOW IS ON AIR. First of all, your contacts want YOU to be watching the show, and secondly, the show’s producers will be watching the program themselves or working on last minute details. If you can avoid it, don’t try to compete with breaking news or anticipated busy news days, such as when the President is in town, a severe weather day, or even when a local accident or crime is capturing headlines.
To pitch or not to pitch … this is the most important question
We understand it’s desirable to be on TV but the best PR professionals will tell you honestly when your story is not appropriate for this medium—maybe because your company, product, or expertise is not relevant enough to TV viewers; cannot be linked to a larger issue; or doesn’t offer the necessary visuals for TV. The main thing to remember is that television is about reporting breaking news and timely feature stories that are of interest to an audience comprised of multiple demographics. So producers need to consider if a story will appeal to a large percentage of the show’s viewers.
What to Pitch
Once you decide that your company, product and/or spokesperson are right for television and you are targeting the correct producers, you need to pinpoint your angle. A product or company on its own is not typically newsworthy and, in fact, can be viewed as too commercial. A good media relations team will find newsworthy angles tied in with trends, pegged to round-up stories that minimize the “sales” aspect of a story segment, and/or be armed with facts and data to make the story more interesting.
Next you should ensure that your pitch is targeted, quick, concise and very to the point. You should be able to explain your pitch idea in one very appealing and interesting sentence that will hook the producer or at least buy another minute on the phone.
I recently spoke with a morning show producer who told me I needed to “make her love the story.” And this was only half the battle! Once you get a producer to bite, you’re not home free. Your contact must then pitch the idea to the senior producers. Many stories don’t make it past this point. But if you take all of these steps, you have a much better chance of booking a segment or at least starting a dialogue with a producer.
While many forms of media have evolved over the years, when it comes to pitching TV, the basics have stayed the same. Relationships are crucial; knowing your story in and out is fundamental; and understanding the producers’ areas of interest are essential to securing TV coverage.
We’d love to hear about your experiences with TV pitching.