Here is the rest of my advice for how to play nice with the media and get them to pay attention to your event or announcement and maybe even cover it.
- Many times, the person who is writing the story back in the newsroom is not the person who covered your event. This is another reason why it’s helpful to put those names and titles of key players in writing. I advise you to write just enough on your media advisory that someone could write a short script about the event without being there. Sometimes the person who physically came to your event isn’t available to offer basic details or he or she has amnesia (Don’t even get me started on that.) This is also helpful when morning show producers are trying to preview the day’s news.
- Always include a PR person’s cell phone number so media folks can call if they need more information or clarification on something. It used to be if I got your desk phone and voice mail, I would just hang up. And then, depending on the story, just give up. I used to be that pressed for time or just that impatient.
- I used to wonder why PR people would waste their time adding quotes to news releases. As a TV reporter, I wanted to get my own. Pre-written quotes were only helpful if a story’s key player was unable (read: unwilling) to give a comment in person or by phone or email. But as time evolved and I started writing more web copy, I did start pulling some quotes from news releases. As a rule, most (good) reporters, TV or digital, should be getting their own quotes from sources and newsmakers. But sometimes time doesn’t allow, so include them but do so sparingly. To me, they still seem to be something PR people love but journalists can take or leave.
- Should you call the reporter or assignment editor to make sure they got your advisory or release? I really have mixed feelings about this one. All PR people call and say “I am just making sure you got the advisory.” So, for about an hour every morning, an assignment editor can get a steady stream of calls that all start the same way. It’s so monotonous. Chances are good your release got to the right place and news managers are deciding what to cover, as we speak, so I really can’t say if we’ll cover the event and even if I do say we’ll be there, due to the inherent nature of news, plans are likely to change between now and when your event happens… (deep breath)… so don’t expect promises from the news person on the other end of the phone or even a lot of enthusiasm. But, do call, I guess. It does happen from time to time that your release got misplaced. And sometimes if you’re a super nice PR person or entertaining to talk to, I would make sure someone came to cover your event to reward you for not being like the others. Just don’t think the more calls you make, the more likely you are to get coverage. It may backfire when you reach the level of Super Annoying PR Person.
- I think the optimal time for a news conference is 10:30am or 11am if it is really far away from a news station. This gives the crew just enough time to go the morning meeting and then get to your event. Then they still have the rest of the day to cover something else. Because news managers will definitely make them cover something else.
Bonus tip: Does it work to send an advisory with food or swag? Sometimes, yes. But this is dangerous from a PR angle, because you can end up spending a lot of money on feeding the entire newsroom and they still can’t cover your event due to staff shortages, breaking news or better stories. So, yes this gimmick does make your pitch stand out, but there are no guarantees of coverage and then clients will wonder why they doled out so much cash and got nothing in return. If money is no object, however, send food or swag when appropriate. Especially in smaller markets, many newsies can’t afford lunch or work so hard they don’t have time to take one so they will appreciate any food offerings.
Now that I work in PR, I almost always get lunch. Lunch is really great.
For fun, I asked some of my newsie friends what they think works and doesn’t when it comes to story pitching. Stay tuned for part three of this very special blog.