Broadcast media panel offers tips on getting your story aired

Feb 17

@PPRA Broadcast Media Tips w/@DelgadoT62 @jodi_harris @kurtzpaul @EugeneSonn @6abcFYIPhilly Stephen McKenzie cbs3 @pyramidclubphlView from 52nd floor Pyramid Club, site of PPRA Meeting of Broadcast Media Tips

With technology continually changing the way we access news and how news organizations gather it, learning pitching tips for public relations pros never gets old. More than 80 Philadelphia Public Relations Association members agreed, and attended Broadcast Media Panel Offers Tips for Getting Your Stories on the Air on Feb 17 from the Pyramid Club’s 52nd floor perch overlooking the city. (Considering PPRA unveiled its new logo with the Philadelphia skyline in the back, the view was apropos.).

The panelists included four from TV: Iris Delgado, Anchor/Reporter for Telemundo62; Jodi Harris, Planning Manager/Producer Fox29; Stephen McKenzie, Managing Editor of CBS3 Eyewitness News, and Tim Walton, Producer Programming Department  FYIPhilly WPVI6, and two from radio: Paul Kurtz, Reporter at KYW Newsradio 1060, and Eugene Sonn, Audio News Director WHYY-FM. Susan Buehler of Buehler Media and Chief Communications Officer for PJM Interconnection, which coordinates electricity supply to 13 states, brought some of that energy to moderating the discussion. She did an excellent job of balancing the questions the audience would have for the media members and what they needed to tell us, and injecting humor along the way. Sometimes, these sessions can devolve into “pet peeves journalists have about PR people” and we feel like we’re being scolded. That wasn’t the case here.

Based on my and other tweets, here’s a summary of what the panel shared. McKenzie emphasized that a story must fit multiple platforms. “I have to decide what I think our viewers care about, and it has to fit on the air, on the Web, and on social, three platforms. It must have compelling video.”

The best times to pitch varied depending on when the station’s editorial planning meetings were scheduled during the day, and in the case of Delgado, who anchors a 5 p.m. newscast, “please don’t call me 15 minutes before I go on the air.” Good times to talk to her are between 1 p.m.-2:30 p.m. before the 3 p.m. meeting. She will follow-up around 10 p.m. as she plans the stories for the next day.

MacKenize said between 10 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., while Harris said, “pretty much anytime. I always have my phone. For bigger stories on lighter topics, contact me a few weeks in advance.”

Sonn echoed reporters’ complaints for generations: “It’s annoying when someone is pitching and has never seen the show, and the story doesn’t fit.” He added, “Around 2 p.m. is a good time to call. Think about times of the week that might be slow and you might have better luck with your pitch.  The story has to fit into 45 seconds.”

Kurtz said he prefers to be contacted by e-mail first, followed by a tweet through direct messaging, but the successful pitch can come down to luck and opportunity. ” It’s all about timing,” he said. “If you have an expert, who can speak on a current topic that’s helpful. Try to get ideas to us.”

For TV, Harris says, “The person has to be good on TV. Sometimes, we’ll look for an expert who we haven’t talked to before.”

Delgado said there’s a misconception about Spanish media. “Telemundo 62 covers what is in the English media in Spanish,” she said. “A Hispanic angle is important.

“Whatever the emotional, human angle may be, your pitch might be the best backup plan when another story falls through,” she added.

Walton, who works at FYIPhilly, says their demands are different. “We’re not a news show so there’s more open times to pitch,” he said. At the same time, he is currently accepting summer pitches.

They all chorused when Buehler said, “Keep it simple and brief: Headline, one paragraph. You need to have thick skin and keep trying if your first e-mail doesn’t get a response.”

The use of the Internet – should we be pitching web editors, too — and social media drew some interesting responses.

“Web Editors are not doing copy, they’re posting info,” said Harris.

Kurtz said the web has enabled them to do more with their stories. “While you may get a short amount of time on the radio, we put more copy on the Web and create podcasts, which are archived.  I covered the protests at the Democratic National Convention on Facebook live, the first time I used it.”

“Social media has broadened our audience beyond Greater Philadelphia,” said Sonn. “If you have a pitch with an expert who has a good social media following, mention it.”

Media Tips of the Week, Part 2 You’re an Expert
at What You Do

Every business has a story–and more

Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia logo, Michael Kleiner Public Relations and Web Design and Apps
There are stories and expertise among SBN and all its members.

Last week’s tip talked about how publishing a book establishes your status as an expert in that area and how my memoir about Norway led to being interviewed, though about a tragic event in the country.

There are other examples where you can receive more positive coverage for your expertise. The keys are knowing “what makes you different than a competitor who does the same thing? How do you do it differently or better? What is the uniqueness? And  “Strike when the coals are hot.” In other words, timing is everything. In this rapid 24/7 smart phone, app, immediacy news world, whoever answers the call first is going to get the coverage. There’s a service, Help A Reporter Out (HARO), that sends out e-mails three times a day with queries from reporters looking for sources for stories they’re working on. The queries are broken down into categories with the times and date of the deadline. It’s amazing how many have deadlines on the same day. If the deadline is 5 p.m. today and you see the query at 3, you can’t waste time.

Topics for Norway might be a place in the news that I visited; Norwegians winning medals in the winter Olympics. Can I present a look at the culture of winter sports in Norway, such as skiing was invented in the country?  John has written four books dealing with historic aspects of baseball. Someone is chasing a record. John could talk about the person whose record is being chased, how he compares to the chaser. Notice on the news shows, a guest author will be introduced as “the author of…”

Among SBN members, there’s Chilly Philly Ice Cream and Little Baby’s Ice Cream, both of whom make homemade ice cream, but in different creative ways and flavors. There are at least eight caterers, three members that make their own beers. This is just part of the food category of the membership. And what about SBN as the leader in the green economy? There’s always an expert with a story–or stories-somewhere.


Tips from Mike and John on Dealing with the News Media, Part Two

art work for blog post on top 10 tips for dealing with the media by John Shiffert for Michael Kleiner PR & Web DesignTip Number 6) Controversy

When dealing with even a potentially controversial issue, don’t be afraid to ask your questioner your own questions. For example… “Can you give me an idea of how you came by this information?” (They’ll never tell you specifically, but you might get enough of an idea to help you know what’s going on behind the scenes… which will help before the camera or tape starts running.)

 Tip Number 7) The Worst Thing You Can Do

Never, ever, say, “no comment!” That is simply the worst thing you can do in a controversial situation. If there’s one thing the media cannot forgive (in controversial AND non-controversial situations), it’s someone who will not talk to them. This is, in their minds, the ultimate sin, a peche mortel. Guaranteed, they’ll stick your “no comment” comment in the middle of the story and make it look like either you’re an idiot, or you have something to hide, or both.

Be ready beforehand to explain your answers carefully. However, if indeed you are asked a question you don’t want to answer at that moment, one approach is to state you need more information from your sources (they have their sources, you have your sources… only fair, right?) before answering and you will get back to them once you have that information. That will buy some time to frame an answer… but make sure you do get back to them.

If you are unsure or nervous under these circumstances, consult a media relations/crisis situation professional. Run it by them, and practice your answer.

Tip Number 8) Market to the Media

Surprise, surprise! The news media wants exactly what you want… they want to get ahead in their jobs. If you can make their jobs easier, or if you know their hot buttons, your job (in terms of dealing with the media) will be a lot easier. This is the first rule of media relations. Marketing is basically the art of meeting the wants and needs of your public(s). In this case, the public is the news media and you want to market to them, by finding out their wants and needs.

Know the reporters who cover your story. That is the number one complaint of reporters, people pitching them don’t know what they write about. Every publication has a web site… go there. Do searches for articles about your topic. Stories will pop up. Read them. Most articles have an e-mail address and/or Twitter handle for the writer. Your pitch can say, “I know you write a lot about…. Well, our company does….”

Tip Number 9) They Know Nothing

One of the first rules of journalism is to assume that your readership knows virtually nothing about the subject of your story. Since public relations/media relations practitioners are basically journalists working from the other side of the street, that’s equally true when you’re answering news media questions. That is, you assume they don’t really know a great deal about the story, a not surprising assumption, since many reporters are generalists, not specialists, on the subject where YOU are the expert.

So, make sure you make your information clear, and, if necessary, offer to send them additional information, ideally in hard copy (i.e., by fax.)

Tip Number 10) When the Media Statement is About an Event, There Isn’t Time to Poll

Organization and association members and boards are sometimes leery of taking public positions on an issue and feel there needs to be a vote, a consensus. On a timely event, in the 24/7 news cycle, you don’t have time to poll everybody. Suppose the vote is 10-1. The organization/association should have an understanding of what they represent, so must trust the executive director and/or public relations/spokesperson to say the right thing. They’re in those positions for a reason.

For example, SBN wants to take a position on Donald Trump nominating anti-environmentalist Scott Pruitt to head the EPA. It can be assumed that in an organization like SBN, whose motto is People, Planet, Profit, the members are going to support a stand against Pruitt. CNN, Nightline and Rachel Maddow are waiting. You don’t have time to poll the members or the Board. You think the other people being interviewed cleared it first?

Tip Number 11) Handle With Care

Another way of looking at this list is as a guideline for handling the news media. As such, the best advice is, “handle with care.” Yes, you should also keep it simple. Be patient. Keep your cool (don’t overreact to inflammatory questions). Listen closely to what they are saying. Get to the point when answering. Journalists are looking for mnemonic quotes that anyone can understand.

In the end though, handle the news media with care. While they can, and do, give you free publicity in news stories, it’s not by definition the publicity you want, and the news media are NOT your friends. Their job is to sell — newspapers, web space, air time, etc. Not to support you. And they do that by publishing what they perceive is the story, not what you perceive.