TV pros had their say in my how-to guide, “How to Pitch TV Reporters, Producers & Bookers, by TV Reporters, Producers & Bookers” (you can read it at http://bit.ly/5rTFV0). Here are a few thoughts on the topic from the publicist’s perspective…
Pitch TV…in the Paper. My experience has been that the most effective way to get TV coverage is to get a story placed where a reporter or producer will read it—in a newspaper or magazine (or their online versions) or in a must-read website or blog for your target reporter or producer. That kind of coverage validates a story and helps moves it up the media food chain towards TV.
The First Time is the Hardest. From the broadcasters perspective a TV shoot represents a considerable investment. A 90 second story can represent hours of work by a reporter, producers, videographer and editor. A live shot ups the ante as now the broadcaster has to commit a TV truck and hope for the best, given the unpredictable nature of live TV. So to get that first story you have to overcome the broadcaster’s natural reluctance to committing resources to an unknown quantity, but once get them to “yes” you have the opportunity to pull out all the stops, smooth out all the bumps in the road and ensure that the broadcaster gets more than is needed. Once reporters, bookers and producers see how a publicist comes through for them, they’ll be back. Give them a good experience and help them tell a good story and they may even be calling you for ideas on a slow news day or if another story falls through.
Not all TV is on TV The websites of newspapers, magazines and major news websites now often include originally produced video segments which have the added evergreen advantage of frequently being archived. Video shoots for these sites tend to be less complicated than broadcast TV due to smaller crews, cameras and a reduced need for lighting set-ups. There might be a niche website that does video stories on your organization’s sector. If you get an online video story placed, consider including a link to that story when you pitch along similar lines to a broadcast or cable TV outlet.
You CAN Help Shape the Story In “How to Pitch TV Reporters…” TV pros stressed that they don’t want publicists to try “in any way to control the reporter’s script/copy/storyline” and hate it when publicists “try hard to inject themselves into my work.”
Yet the publicist can set help shape a story. You can help by suggesting a great location with a compelling backdrop for the live shot or story, (I’ve seen cable news networks call the audible and decide to keep the live truck at a location all morning and even all day, because they liked the location and guests so much during in the original planned hits).
You should line-up interviewees who speak well on camera (and increasingly people know how to be on TV) and make the right impression for the organization (at the same time filtering out interviewees who might leave a negative impression of your organization.) Remember that a reporter usually has only a minute and a half (and sometimes less) to tell the story. If you can provide him with compelling guests that really help him tell the story, the reporter will have less time to include the one malcontent he also interviewed.
Reporters are often new to a topic, or just assigned to a story an hour earlier, and frequently they are looking to be brought up to speed and are receptive to suggestions that help them bring out the story. You should also have a wealth of info on-hand (I always carried the company’s media guide or a press kit). Just as the reporter is about to do a stand-up or live hit he or she may ask you for some data, a key date, the spelling of something, or an historical tidbit. Would also recommend having a one-pager for the reporter detailing the event being promoted (maybe the Media Advisory/Daybook item you used to attract coverage in he first place) or the person being interviewed.
When It’s Time to Push Back… It hasn’t happened often, but occasionally I’ve challenged a reporter when I thought a line of questioning was unfair, when assumptions were ill informed or when a reporter focused on interviewing people that gave my organization a bad image. Usually I’ve gotten a fair hearing. The one time I wrote to a news director to complain about what I thought was unfair coverage, I also got a sympathetic hearing: he saw my point and said he’d make it up to me. The next week he sent out a TV truck and crew for a live remote to help promote an event at my organization
…and to Push Ahead While working with a reporter or producer, if the story is going well, I’ll always try to get the reporter interested in some other stories ideas to pursue at a later date. One tool I’ve used is “Tip Sheet,” containing 10-12 mini-pitches for TV-ready stories available at the organization I’m representing.
Get Your Org. on Board You will be most successful in getting good TV coverage for your organization if it is on-board and understands what it is getting into when you succeed in getting TV coverage. TV can be intrusive, especially for a live shot, and frustrating when TV crews arrive early (trucks for morning show live shots can arrive at 4 a.m.), late, or not at all. Crews have a way of taking over a space and they may have to borrow furniture, set-up lights and run cables (watch out for union conflicts!). Interview times are often shifted or eliminated and you’ll be told you absolutely need to get the CEO to the set no later that 7:25 a.m. and then find that she doesn’t go on until 7:55 and that there’s only time for one questions.
And it’s not just the CEO and publicist who can make or break a story. I can’t tell you how many times the efforts of a security guard, parking attendant, electrician, facilities person, administrative assistant or even an intern set the stage for a successful TV shoot.
Your organization needs to know there could be bumps and bruises along the way to getting TV converage, but the right kind of coverage can be a tremendous boost in advancing your organization’s profile and communications goals.
Here’s the ball, now go out and pitch….and see you on TV!
To read & download “How to Pitch TV Reporters, go to: http://bit.ly/5rTFV0
John Lee Media
Public & Media Relations, Communications, Media Projects
New York, NY