Today we’ll go inside the parentheses and take a look at “what not to do” when trying to attract TV coverage and ensure a good experience for the reporter or producer covering your story.
To do so, we’ll go to those reporters and producers and ask them,

what are we doing wrong?

from an ABC Good Morning America producer
· Pitching the wrong producer/reporter- find out what their niche is and pitch the right person. It is a waste of time otherwise for everyone.
· Not separating their clients from the rest of the pack. I get so many pitches for plastic surgeons- for example- (even though I don’t do even those stories anymore!) and they all seem the same. Find out what your client’s specialty is and focus on that- what really makes them special.
· Not staying on top of the pitch and the producer- it may be the right story for that moment- but could be down the line- keep in touch with the producer/reporter/booker and develop a relationship so they can go to you later if they are looking for something.
· Spelling the reporter/producer/booker’s name wrong!

from an NBC news national correspondent
Mistake #1 is pitching the wrong story (a story that has no chance of being pursued) or pitching the right story to the wrong person at a given news organization or at the wrong time (too close or too far from deadline).
— don’t try to produce or edit or in any way control the reporter’s script/copy/storyline.
— don’t offer elements you can’t in fact provide.
— don’t say you’ll call back or confirm some aspect of the fact-gathering and then fail to do so.
— don’t lie or misrepresent or overstate you’re client’s position/interest/history etc. (though there’s no obligation of course to tell a reporter the whole story or answer every question fully).
— don’t forget to wear a watch, and to consult it regularly. reporters are always on deadline and are always juggling a number of tasks throughout the day.

From a WABC New York meteorologist
Publicists must avoid over promising and under delivering. Better to do the opposite. Do not have any bad surprises for when the talent arrives on the day of the live shot, like one of the elements not being able to make it. If that happens we tend not to trust you with another live shot. I doubt we will work with you.
If you know ahead of time that something has gone wrong, let us know ahead of time as soon as possible. We will work with you to fill that hole. Don’t keep it a secret and then spring it on us at the live shot. You’re future live shot with us will be over. Honesty always is the best policy. You want future business for future clients.

from a WFTV Florida TV Reporter
Mistakes PRs make? Trying too hard to drive the story. You have to remember the medium. It’s local news. If a reporter can’t sell the story to his/her boss as a news story, it doesn’t matter what YOU think the “angle” should be. Yes, no company has ever offered a deal like this to consumers before, but why does the reporter care? Connect it to news: a company’s making a historic offer to consumers hurting from the economy. Now, the pitch has a tie (peg) to real news that stations may be looking for a fresh story on.

Don’t oversell. Don’t mislead. Don’t promise a “dramatic” announcement at a news conference, only to tell me something less than interesting. (watch the news at night–would your announcement fit in that show or not?) Don’t imply you’re bringing ME a story, when you’re really offering it to EVERYBODY. And don’t take it personally if I get pulled off your story to cover a house fire, shooting, dog in a storm drain, or who knows what else. It happens every day, and stories get changed and killed over and over. I hate it as much as you do, and it wasn’t my idea.

                                                                                                   from a WNBC New York reporter
The biggest mistake publicists make in pitching a story is stressing the visual elements…”we have balloons and clowns and cheering kids…” We are interested in the STORY. You need to stress how it effects people; why our audience will care about it; and what real people will be available to discuss how they have been impacted.

from a Florida TV reporter
I would say trying to do our jobs or being too pushy. All journalists understand you have an agenda to get through- and that’s why we’re both there- but we’ll pick the hook ourselves.

The song does say, “accentuate the positive., eliminate the negative…” So now that we’ve gotten the negatives out of the way, we’ll move next to some solid tips from media pros on getting your story on-air, in the next installment of “How to (and not to) Pitch TV Reporters, Producers & Bookers.”

Also See “Part 1” previously on the MEDIA Ping blog.

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