TV News Reporter Shares Secrets to Landing Coverage

For this week’s blog post, we spoke with News 14 Carolina reporter Andrea Pacetti in Raleigh, NC, to get her top tips for securing TV media coverage. Prior to her current gig, Andrea launched the network’s Coastal newsroom, acting as bureau chief and Morehead City’s first reporter. She also previously worked as a reporter and producer for WTWO in Indiana.

So, from the mouth of a reporter, producer and bureau chief, here is what you need to know about landing coverage on TV.

What method should public relations professionals use to pitch TV reporters?

Emails are usually the most convenient way to receive a pitch, and sending a follow-up email as the event gets closer is great as well.

Phone calls can also work; however, you should always send a follow up email with the event information after a phone call. If you are a pitching to a particular reporter, he/she may not be working the shift or day when the event is, so an email will allow him/her to pass the information along to another reporter. Also, I have had occasions when I was talking to a PR professional and then immediately been sent to cover breaking news. In cases like that, an email has reminded me to follow up with assignment editors or my news director on the event.

When talking to a reporter, I’d always ask what they prefer. Some reporters hate getting phone calls with pitches but will respond to an email, for example.

What time of day should public relations professional pitch TV reporters?

PR professionals should try to keep in mind typical TV deadlines and avoid those “crunch times,” which are about an hour or so before deadline. This is typically when a reporter will be under pressure to finish a story or be preparing to do a live shot. A normal day-shift reporter will probably have to get stories in for the noon show and the 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. shows. In that case, mornings and early afternoons are usually good. If you are pitching a producer, avoid contacting them during a show.

What is the best approach to getting TV reporters to cover your event?

Sending media invites and following up with phone calls is a good approach. Keep in mind, reporters usually don’t get to decide what news they are covering. They can pitch ideas in story meetings, but there is no guarantee they will get to cover a story they pitch. So it’s best to send emails to the TV station’s assignment desk and news directors as well, so the story is on more than one person’s radar.

Also, it’s always better if you can personalize the pitch to a reporter or station. You will be more likely to get a response than if you pitch in a mass email.

The best way to get a story covered is to connect your event/story to timely news.

Can you share an example of a recent pitch that was exceptional and why it was exceptional?

While Special Olympics is always a great story to cover, sometimes stations will just cover it with a generic shorter story since it happens every year. However, the Special Olympics PR staff took steps to make it much more attractive for us to cover this year.

They had several unique athletes and coaches who had already agreed to do interviews. We were able to do a personal story about one of the athletes, and it was different from other stations’ stories. The PR staff also was able to work in a timely angle, offering us interviews with athletes/coaches who would be traveling to the World Special Olympic Games in Greece. Personal, unique, timely–great pitch!

Can you provide three tips to consider when pitching TV reporters?

1. Try to have a “news hook” to connect with your story. Most stations don’t like covering events for events’ sake. They will be much more likely to bite if there is a connection to timely news.

2. Let them know what will be there visually for them to shoot. The worst thing for TV reporters is to go to the event and there’s just a bunch of people sitting and eating in a boring room. Let reporters know if there is going to be activities, displays, puppies, anything that will make good TV.

3. Let them know who will be available to talk and when. If the CEO of a big company, a politician or celebrity is willing to do interviews, make sure the reporter knows that. While, of course it’s best if the interviewee is flexible. However, if a spokesperson only has a certain availability (before a speech, after a dinner), let the reporter know that too. Depending on the reporter’s deadlines, he/she may only be able to attend a portion of the event. Knowing they will be able to get an interview helps them feel confident they can turn the story.

Can you provide three things public relations professionals should avoid when pitching TV reporters?

1. Avoid lengthy pitches with lots of attachments. Reporters get lots of emails every day so keep it to the point with the most interesting information first. If a reporter is interested in more information, they will follow up. Also, don’t make the reporter dig for the basic info, especially the where, when and contact information. Always put the contact at the top, including a cell phone number & email. If there is additional information, it is probably better to include it in a link as opposed to an attachment.

2. Avoid a “one-size-fits-all” approach. Get to know the shift the reporter works, who works what beat, and the types of stories a station covers so you can pitch relevant stories.

3. Don’t pressure the reporter for an on-the-spot commitment. Unless it’s a huge event, in most cases it is hard for reporters to let you know for sure if they will be there until the day of the event. Larger stations with more resources are more likely to commit; however, at a station with only a few reporters, reporters are routinely pulled off stories they had hoped/planned to cover because of breaking news.

Does providing an exclusive make TV reporters more likely to cover your event/news?

In general, exclusives are attractive to TV reporters; however, it also depends on the topic and who the exclusive is with. It may be good to gauge the station’s interest in the story and the potential exclusive first. If the topic/event is not something that the TV station is interested in, an exclusive may not change that, and you could risk alienating other stations who are not offered an exclusive.

Thanks again to Andrea for her offering her insight on how best to pitch TV media.

Any recent success stories with TV or have additional questions for Andrea? Share and post below!

Jim Sweeney

Jim is a veteran of the agency industry and the founder of Sweeney. He is uncommonly passionate about the idea of creating and implementing insanely great marketing campaigns that achieve insanely great results. He pioneered the full-service, full-circle agency model and continues to forge new ideas in an ever-changing industry. And he is accessible to everyone about anything, seemingly all the time, serving as a mentor to all agency personnel and clients.