Want local TV coverage? Here's what not to do
One of the most common publicity assignments just about every PR person takes on at some point is to generate publicity that results in local television media.
There are some effective ways to achieve your goals, but there are probably many more ways not to get the local TV coverage you want.
Let’s focus on eight of them.
1. Pitch a business-to-business story
OK, we know it.
Your company sells the most amazing technology to other companies to help them manufacture products better, save money and become more productive. If I’m a TV news assignments editor, you lost me at “other companies.”
My viewers aren’t “other companies” and don’t care about business-to-business stories. At least that’s what the consultants say.
2. Pitch a company anniversary story
There are exceptions to this, but they mostly involve creating an event or program that makes news on its own and only then integrates the theme of the anniversary into the event.
But if all you have to pitch is your firm’s 25th anniversary…well…good luck with that.
3. Hold a press conference in a conference room
What? No visuals?
If you’re planning a press conference, and the location is a conference room, you may get coverage but only if you really have big news, or if you have a big celebrity in the room.
But if your primary visual is an executive in a suit at a podium, you may not get more than a 15-second mention on the newscast, if that.
If you are planning a press conference, your location may be the most important visual you have to offer. Let’s say your company is breaking ground on a new plant. Have the event at the groundbreaking of construction. If your firm is launching a new technology for supermarket checkouts, have the event in an actual supermarket where you can demonstrate the new technology in a visual way.
4. Talk economics
Economics is probably the most important and meaningful subject that almost never gets proper treatment on local TV news, which is unfortunate.
Yes, you may find economic components in that story about massive layoffs at the local big box store. But the “money sound bites” will probably go to the people most emotionally impacted by decision.
What you’re not likely to see on local TV news is a good explanation of the more complex economic pressures that may have made those layoffs unavoidable. No matter what the story, economic material is often viewed as too dry, too complex, and a ratings killer in TV, so the subject will not earn much air time.
5. Send an email with no telephone follow-up
A local TV newsroom assignments desk is one of the busiest places on the planet. You’ve got field reporters calling in, camera crews coordinating live feeds, a deluge of emails from you and other PR people, and news directors and producers all scrambling in a very small space that gets smaller closer to broadcast.
They hustle beneath a set of monitors, always monitoring the competition so they don’t get scooped. If you, as a PR person, think that simply sending an email and waiting for the local TV station to get back to you is enough, your story probably will not make it on the local news.
6. Announce something after it has already happened
Really? Actually, I was not going to include this because I didn’t think many PR people still do this, but according to a friend of mine who works in TV news, some PR people still do this. If you are one of them, stop.
So if your CEO gave a speech last night to a local charity, don’t bother sending your news release to the local TV newsroom today and expect coverage. If your CEO thinks it has a shot, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
7. Push personnel or “People on the Move” stories
If someone in your firm was hired or promoted, please see #6 above.
Newspapers have special sections for that. TV news operations do not.
8. Refuse to participate when they want to talk to you…but pitch them when you think you have a story
You may have a great local TV news story today, but if your firm has worked to avoid TV news operations previous times when the media has approached you, your company may have a negative reputation in that newsroom. This means they’ll be far less receptive to your pitch, even if it is a good story.
The best rule of thumb is always respond to the media even if you can’t go on camera, but explain way. And other times, do you best to help them out. It’s all about relationship-building.
Of course, there are many other ways to fumble a local TV news pitch. What are yours?
Tim O’Brien is owner of Pittsburgh-based O’Brien Communications, a corporate communications consultancy. He has over 30 years’ experience in communications and started his career as a journalist.
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