[pr:14766] Re: Best Methods for Pitching Stories to News Media

More “PR” thoughts from the newsline...

Begin forwarded message:

From: "Howard B. Price" <howardbprice@...>
Subject: [pr:14766] Re: Best Methods for Pitching Stories to News Media
Date: September 29, 2019 at 10:44:00 AM PDT
To: ARRL PR reflector <pr@...>

I am a news assignment editor for a major-market, network-owned television station, a working journalist for nearly 50 years – and an amateur radio operator -- so allow me to contribute some tips:
  • First and foremost, most news organizations make their coverage decisions based on a combination of considerations: Staffing, geography, the press of major breaking news, the preferences of our audiences, the needs of our platforms (broadcast, web, print, etc.). Which means that to be a PIO today requires you to be aware of other things going on in the world when you pitch. And it requires you to have a sense of the types of stories most likely to be covered by the news organizations that you pitch.
  • A good formula for success: Prominence + Proximity + Consequence = Who Cares About Your Story. Is there a news “hook” on which you can hang your story beyond just amateur radio? Has there been a recent disaster in your area which disrupted communications? Has someone launched a cyberattack against your local emergency services – these are just two of the kinds of “hooks” or “angles” you can use to draw attention to the continuing relevance of ham radio in your area. Does your story take place or hit close to home? What’s the “real people” impact of the story you are trying to tell? You need to see your story through the eyes and ears of the viewer, reader or listener in order to determine the likelihood of someone covering it. It continues to shock me how rare it is to see local ham groups pitching media on their reponse to emergent stories like hurricane, tornadoes, winter storms, local power outages. These and similar events are golden opportunities for any ham group with a formalized response plan to get publicity.
    • Drop the “ham-ese.” Forgo jargon. Remember that most people wouldn’t know “ham radio” from a “ham sandwich.” People don’t care about your widgets and framuses. They care about WHAT those things can do for THEM.
    • Take a more professional approach to being a volunteer. If you’re part of a formal emergency communications response group, look the part. Don’t show up with badges and patches on every square inch of a hat or shirt or jacket. Think about a standard dress code for your team’s response to any organized event. Cliches are born of perception. Let’s remember that in order to convince people that amateur radio is more an geeky hobby, and in fact, remains an essential resource even in the age of the Internet, we need to get people to take us seriously and not fall back on stereotypes.
  • For TV, the event should be rich in compelling visuals. For radio, make sure you provide access to people who can explain complex technology in “real people speak” – and do so in soundbites of no more than 15 seconds. Seriously. For print and the web, make sure you have a compelling, resonant story to tell about how ham radio – an old, proven technology – remains relevant today. How it saved a life, provided help in catastrophe, reunited long lost friends in far away places by happenstance, etc.
  • Follow the Rule of One: ONE e-mail, ONE follow-up phone call. There’s been some discussion of faxing and snail-mail; trust me, e-mail is now the primary way we field story pitches now, along with news tip applications you’ll find on the websites and apps of most news organizations these days. DON’T call us when we’re on deadline, DON’T call us to pitch features during breaking news. A good rule of thumb is to pitch a week to 10 days in advance, and follow-up a day or two before the scheduled event. FEATURE coverage for a morning newscast is usually locked in the day before; for a midday newscast, by mid-morning; stories for the early evening shows are set around lunch time; and decision-making for late-night newscasts begins about 2pm. Again, these are rough guidelines for FEATURE stories – a newsroom’s typical daily “story budget” changes by the hour as breaking news dictates – which is why there is almost NEVER a guarantee of feature story coverage on any given day.
  • Schedule events to start on time, but run long enough to allow for late media arrivals. Yours is not the only event we may need to cover on a given day, or at a given time.
  • Pitch the big outlets, of course – but hyperlocal outlets are always looking for, and are focused on, great little community stories. Your community weeklies and online blogs will always be especially receptive to your pitch. 
  • Start your own media channels: Facebook pages, Twitter and Instagram accounts – and YouTube Channels. All accommodate audio and video posts, and you control them. 
  • Finally, build relationships. Pitching coverage is always easier and more successful when the people you are pitching know you personally and you know them. Become familiar with the people in each news organization that likely would be most receptive to your pitch: People who cover emergency services, technology, science, hobbies. The better your “personal connections,” the more likely it is you’ll be able to pitch your story to the right people and make sure the pitch is escalated to the ultimate decision-makers in each newsroom.
Howard Price/KA2QPJ
President, Broadcast Employees Amateur Radio Society, Inc.
New York
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