In my previous post, I discussed the advantages and challenges of dealing with broadcast media.
In spite of these challenges, you can definitely succeed in broadcast by following some basic media-relations procedures.
- Tailor your message. Watch or listen to your target program(s) several times. Even newscasts have different personalities and slightly different formats.
- Enlarge your story. Look for a trend, a local event or news hook. Do research. Back up your pitch with statistics or surveys.
- Get to the point. The average sound bite on TV and radio is less than 10 seconds long. You will probably get more time in a talk show, but it is still good to state your major points early and often.
- For radio, add sound and “word pictures.” If possible, provide sounds other than your voice (e.g., music, ambient noise).
- If you are doing a radio interview, think of ways to “paint pictures” in your listeners’ minds. Describing something as about 720 feet long is one thing; saying it is twice the size of a football field is quite another. And much more effective.
- For TV, think visually. If possible, provide props or film. You significantly improve your chances of success if you deliver action and color. For example, at various times for Wallpapers to Go, we supplied TV talk shows with room-setting photos illustrating wallcoverings; a miniature “doll house” that demonstrated the effect different wallcoverings had on the same room; and even a portable 6-ft., 300-lb. “wall” for wallpapering demos.
- Contact the right people. For newscasts, typically the news director puts the broadcast together and the assignment editor determines what will be covered on the news. These two people make the assignments, “package” the show, and determine the length and sequence of the stories.In smaller stations, the news director and assignment editor may be the same person. Sometimes individual news programs (e.g., the “Noon News”) have their own producers. Larger stations may also have a planning editor who focuses on special reports.
- For talk shows and “infotainment” programs, typically the producer, host and hostess decide who will be on the show. For public affairs programs, including Public Service Announcements (PSAs) and community calendar announcements, the public service director (sometimes called the public affairs or community affairs director) is the contact.
- Contact the reporters and producers the way they want to be contacted. If you don’t know how they want to be contacted, e-mail them and follow up by phone. Once you connect, ask their preferences. They’ll appreciate the fact that you ask.
- Time your pitches carefully. For broadcast, time is of the essence and deadlines are everything. Pitch talk show guests six to 12 weeks before the date of the target show, depending on the size and prestige of the market and program. Notify the news director about any upcoming news announcements at least one week in advance.
- Avoid calling a TV newsroom two hours before a newscast. The staff is preparing for “show time.”
- Although you can’t predict a slow news day, government holidays are almost always “slower” news days because much of the news comes from the government. So time your announcements for those days or, even better, for general holidays when both government and businesses are closed. Because there are fewer announcements then, you increase your chances for pickup.
And accept the fact that Murphy is often right. What can go wrong will (sometimes) go wrong. So prepare for the unexpected. One rainy day in Boston, a client and I were in a traffic accident on the way to a live newscast. We made it, with about one minute to spare. If we had not allowed plenty of time to begin with, we would have missed this interview opportunity.
Broadcast isn’t for everyone. It probably doesn’t fit extremely technical or true commodity businesses. But, for many of us, broadcast can be a powerful addition to our publicity programs.