My Q&A with WRAL’s Sloane Heffernan
Sloane Heffernan and I met when I was a budding news production assistant at WRAL-TV in Raleigh, NC. Still to this day, Sloane’s infectious smile, pixie haircut and Boston accent makes everyone want to be around her and share their stories. She has been a reporter with the station for more than 10 years and has been to every kind of scene and has covered every kind of news story you can imagine.
Sloane was gracious enough to catch up with me on the phone to chat about my new job and share some of her insights for my new fellow PR folk on some best practices for scoring media coverage. Here are some highlights from our conversation that you may want to take note of before your next pitch.
Me: How many emails do you get in a day, a week?
Sloane: Countless, countless! Hundreds per day. Don’t tell the IT department, but I currently have in my inbox 45,000 emails, and I would say three-fourths of them are pitches.
Me: What is your take on the PR/Television News relationship these days?
Sloane: I feel like it’s not very personal. You get these emails and they’re very generic, you tend to just delete. In the news business, you have so much stuff coming in, and so much going on, if there’s not a personal touch or connection, you just don’t have the time. If it looks like an email that has been sent out to a hundred other news outlets, I’m probably not going to open it. What people don’t realize is that it doesn’t have to be an email. Sometimes the news desk will give out reporters’ phone numbers. If you can get their number, call or even just send a text. There’s also Facebook. So many people have personal and professional Facebook pages these days — it’s a great way to get in touch in a personal way.
Me: What do you wish people in the PR world did differently when it comes to pitching you or WRAL stories?
Sloane: We have so much to do in a day, social media, the website and TV. If you want us to cover a story, you have to make it easy for the news crews to tell it. Have a character ready for your story, a human who is ready and WILLING to share your story, at a time that would be preferred. 10am-12pm would be great. In your pitch, briefly explain what the story is. Remember, we have to take these stories and get them down to a minute and 30 seconds. Keep it simple, have your character, maybe an official and make sure you explain how your story impacts our local audience.
Sloane made so many good points during our conversation, from helping reporters tell your story to getting creative with your pitch as well as personalizing your media outreach. Don’t forget, researching a news station’s staff and their beats is an easy way to find out who would be most interested in telling your story.
One thing that Sloane said, and it really stuck with me, is how willing reporters are to go to bat for a good story. They’re always looking for news, so if you can craft your pitch in a way that makes them care too, they’ll fight for you! For help on how to make media care about your pitch, tune in next time for my latest confession.
“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, NC, Charleston, SC, and most recently WSOC-TV in Charlotte, NC.