Securing a spot on national broadcast media is the ultimate in media placement, but successfully pitching to get a client into one of those broadcast spots is competitive and challenging. This year’s PRSA-NY annual broadcast pitching event, Meet the Media: National Broadcast Media, featured a panel of four prominent broadcast media producers to explain how to successfully pitch to broadcast and what they look for when filling guest spots.
The panel members were:
Jevon Bruh, talent producer for The Chew (ABC-TV)
Tracy Langer Chevrier, VP/executive producer for The Better Show (Meredith Video Studios)
Kristen Scholer, producer at CNBC
Shira Sky, host and executive producer at Huffington Post Live
Here are some of the tips they gave for successful broadcast pitching.
Pitch by email
Don’t pitch by phone, and unless someone has made known it’s acceptable, never pitch by social media. “Don’t send me a blog or a tweet, social media does not catch my attention,” says Scholer. Send your pitch by email and “Only email once,” she continues. “If you email me twice, you will get no response.”
Do a lot of homework
Be very familiar with the show you’re pitching. Look into what they’ve covered recently and decide if it’s the appropriate time to pitch your story. If you’re pitching a network, know their shows and tailor your pitch to the show you’re pitching.
Include a video clip
Accompanying a pitch must be a video clip. Don’t tell producers to visit a website for a video; enclose the video as a link or as an attachment, but make sure that either is in the correct format. Scholer advises checking the show’s website for the appropriate video format specifications. Bruh recommends sending copyrighted videos, not web clips, as the copyrighted videos are approved by the stations or network for internal use.
Pitches need to be very relevant
Broadcast media want the story that’s breaking now. “Pitch me the hottest story of the moment,” says Chevrier. Last month’s hot topics won’t cut it.
Pitch an exclusive
A producer is much more likely to accept a pitch if you’re only pitching it to them. “We want exclusives,” says Scholer. “Don’t send us someone who was just on Bloomberg.” However, Chevrier says sometimes they will do follow-ups from other networks.
Guests need TV experience and personality
The last thing producers want is a guest who will bomb on camera, so producers need to see that guests are successful in front of the lens. They also need to know that the guest is both interesting and knowledgeable. “The guest must have a personality,” says Sky. “Give me a reason why I should choose your client. They should be well-spoken and look great.”
Celebrities must be credible
If your client is a celebrity or an athlete representing a product, that star had better be knowledgeable about the product industry, says Chevrier. If a celebrity doesn’t know their stuff, it makes the network look bad, so producers will review the material and the celebrity’s credentials until they are sure they are credible.
Multiple appearances are rare
“We will only have repeated guests who have boosted our ratings,” says Bruh, and if your client is invited back, six months is too soon. Networks will also ask back guests who are extremely knowledgeable, photogenic, and/or who do quality work.
Bio: Alfred Cox is a rare commodity of a performer who combines a relentless drive to succeed with the ability to provide “first-person” touch to his clients, creating loyalty and repeat business. He has a hard-nosed work ethic in a results- driven environment and he is often called the “Network King.” Alfred has been in the PR industry for the past 18+ years and joined the BurrellesLuce team in 2011. Connect with him on Twitter: @shantikcox Facebook: BurrellesLuce LinkedIn: Alfred CoxDon’t pitch by phone, and never by social media . “Don’t send me a blog or a tweet” when pitching, says Scholer. “Social media does not catch my attention.”– it won’t catch a producer’s attention. Send your pitch by email and “Only email once,” says Scholer. “If you email me twice, you will get no response
Most professional writers get itchy when they see typos, grammatical errors, and incorrect punctuation. When I was an editor and journalist, I ignored or deleted press releases that were poorly written, filled with errors, or totally irrelevant. Other media professionals do the same thing, so you need to make sure your material doesn’t fall into that same black hole.
Writers adhere to their outlet’s official style guide, so PR professionals crafting material for the media need to be familiar with the basics of the most common style guides. Understanding these style guides – and even learning some of their guidelines – can only improve your writing, which can only improve your chances at piquing an editor’s interest.
The Elements of Style by Strunk and White
The Elements of Style is a manifesto for clear, effective writing. Packed with helpful guidelines and grammar rules, EOS was first published in 1918 and most recently updated in 2000. EOS covers rules of usage, principles of composition, misused words and expressions, and style tips. At only 103 pages, it’s accessible and necessary for anyone who ever writes anything.
EOS quick tip: Omit needless words. Instead of “He is a man who knows what he’s doing,” write “He knows what he’s doing.” Once you start looking, you’d be surprised how many words are unnecessary.
The Associated Press Style Book and Briefing on Media Law
Since its debut in 1953, The AP Stylebook has become the industry standard for newspapers, magazines, and other journalism media and is excellent tool to have in one’s PR belt. Updated every year, the stylebook’s most recent edition is nearly 500 pages, which diminishes its day-to-day practicality for those who aren’t copy editors. But the guide’s ubiquity means it’s particularly important to grasp the basics and employ them in your writing.
AP Stylebook quick tip: Capitalize formal titles when they appear immediately before a name. For example, “President Fitzwilliam Grant will seek a second term.” Don’t capitalize the title if it appears between commas, like “Fitzwilliam Grant, the current president, will seek a second term.”
The Chicago Manual of Style
The Chicago Manual of Style, or CMOS, is, like AP style, one of the most widely-used style guides in the U.S. CMOS is used primarily in the publishing industry. First published in 1906 and last updated with its 16th edition in 2010, CMOS has a section dedicated to citations, making it particularly useful to those in the academic and research fields.
CMOS quick tip: Access to the CMOS Q&A section is free (unlike AP’s Q&A section, which requires a subscription), so you can check out some of the rules without purchasing the guide, though rules differ from the AP’s.
The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage
The Gray Lady has her own style guide, The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage. Initially created in 1950 (three years before the AP’s guide), the guide’s most recent print edition was published in 2002, but editors at the paper use an online version that is frequently updated but not available to the public.
NYT Manual quick tips: The New York Times uses courtesy titles before a person’s last name, for example, “George Smith went to Washington. Mr. Smith is a senate page.” In AP style, that would read “George Smith Went to Washington. Smith is a senate page.” The New York Times also writes “e-mail,” though AP did away with the dash in 2011.
Many publications, companies, and organizations have their own house style guide; those I have seen are all based on AP style. Those who write any public content for their organization should know (and update) their house style guide and enforce it. If the organization has a copy editor or designated writer, ask that he or she provide a copy of the style guide to all employees, and that everyone is alerted to any changes.
What does your company use? How do you decide which style points to follow?