– by Shawnee Cohn, Media Relations Specialist, Business Wire/New York
In the public relations field, there’s no placement like a national broadcast TV placement. Getting your client on a top television program offers invaluable publicity. However, with this much sought-after media coverage comes much stiffer competition to get your pitch noticed by reporters and producers.
Recently the New York chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) held a media panel of experts from top, national broadcast television programs.
Moderated by Suzanne Lyons of Ketchum Public Relations, the panel included:
- Tommy Crudup, Senior Talent Executive, Rachael Ray
- Rebecca Jarvis, Host, CBS This Morning: Saturday
- Haleigh Raff, Senior Editorial Producer, Piers Morgan Tonight (CNN)
- Vanessa Weber, Consumer/Investigative Reporter, Good Morning America (ABC News)
Following are some highlights that the experts offered for communications professionals:
Build a relationship: While some reporters and producers strictly prefer e-mail communication, others might be willing to meet with you at their office or to grab a coffee. Face-to-face time can go a long way in terms of building a rapport with the media, said Raff. At the Rachael Ray Show, most of the talent bookings originate from PR pros that Crudup has known for over 10 years. Weber agreed, noting that she prefers to only speak over the phone with publicists who she has an established connection with. If you do not already have a standing relationship with a certain member of the media, the best way to begin developing one is by offering quality pitches.
Lend a helping hand: Reporters and producers know best when it comes to what their viewers want. With that said, giving them a “head start” when it comes to a storyline is always appreciated, noted Raff. If your pitch is in some way helping her do her job better and faster, Weber will be more likely to give it more than a passing glance. All of the panelists were in agreement that video and images are essential to give your pitch a leg up. In the world of TV, offering a visual element to your story cannot be overlooked. A useful tactic is to think of who/what you would like to see on TV prior to sending your pitch, according to Weber. If you do not find your own pitch interesting, than the media probably will not, either. Jarvis suggests finding some element of “tension” to your story, by discussing the “players and competitors” or other intriguing aspects. Keep in mind that for human interest stories, the individual at the center must be able to speak about their experiences live and in an articulate, compelling way.
Be upfront: If your client is a paid spokesperson or is scheduled to appear on several other television programs, honesty is the best policy. “Communication is key,” according to Raff. Producers might be flexible and even let your paid spokesperson mention their product several times, as long you are open about their intentions right off the bat. Television shows always want an exclusive and prefer to know ahead of time if they would be following a competitor by covering your story. “Withholding information is not good and puts your reputation at risk,” warned Weber. If a client appears on a program and only gives manufactured answers seemingly crafted by a PR person, the relationship between the publicist and that particular show could be permanently damaged, noted Jarvis.