Confessions of a Former News Producer: Two Secrets to Helping Reporters and Producers Tell Your Story

I’m not going to lie. TV news is hard. I’m sitting here pondering all of the chaos probably going on at my former station right this second: “one shot” ringing out over the scanner, the news chopper flying over a midday police chase or house fire, a Presidential tweet, etc.

You get the picture – it never stops. Producers’ show rundowns never stay the same and a reporter is lucky to stay on the story he or she started on at 9:30 a.m. In the midst of all that madness, you need coverage for your event.

Well, here are some tips on how to get it, and maybe even make a friend or two in the news media along the way.

DO YOUR HOMEWORK

There are different kinds of television stations in every market, those that cover “softer” news – and the ones that won’t touch it with a 10-foot pole.

Know the DIFFERENCE between your stations and be willing to change up your pitch to GET coverage. Remember, most of the time, one size doesn’t always fit all.

  • Identify which stations are more willing to have a live interview on air, a good news segment or spotlight a local resident. This station will probably be your best bet for feature coverage, because it’s unlikely they’ll hit “delete” every time you send an email.
  • Zero in on the station who likes its news a little HARDER. You know what I mean — they’re always “first on the scene” of the latest crime, they “dig deeper” in their investigations, they cover every city council meeting, etc. This doesn’t mean you have zero chance at coverage, but you may need to alter your pitch to align yourself with the stories they like to cover.

For every different station, there’s also a different reporter.

  • Research which “beats” every reporter covers, and if your event falls into their wheelhouse, reach out to that reporter directly.

KEEP YOUR PITCH SIMPLE

“Don’t bury the lead.  If you’re trying to get coverage for a grand opening and a local celebrity is going to be there, say it in the subject line.” Jeremy Spearman, CBS 17 News Producer

Reporters and producers are in the conversation business. They need to make sure that ALL of their viewers can easily understand the stories they are working to tell. So, your pitch needs to do the same.

  • Email Pitch vs. Media Release
    • I’m not going to rock your world and say get rid of the media release, because I know they do help. As a former producer who was responsible for writing community VOSOTS (video with sound), those media releases did help me know the who, what, why, when of the story – and that’s what I really needed.
  • BUT…Here’s where those media releases can hurt.
    • Does it sound like you’re selling something? TV news media stations are not in the business of free advertising. They wouldn’t exist otherwise.
    • Does the release capture the relevance of your story? If reporters, producers and assignment editors read your pitch and they’re left saying “why does my viewer care about this”, then you can kiss your coverage goodbye.

There’s so much more that really goes into building relationships with news media and helping reporters and news producers tell your story. Bottom line: you have to know WHO you’re pitching to and WHY to make sure that message gets across successfully. Questions? Email me at Katie@mckeemanpr.com and stay tuned for my next installment.

“Confessions of a Former TV Producer” is a blog series written by Katie Parker, McKeeman Communications’ newest maven. She was an emmy-nominated news producer who spent the last 12 years working in top television newsrooms in Raleigh, N.C., Charleston, S.C., and most recently WSOC-TV in Charlotte, N.C.

 

 

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