Do you think you know the best way to get in contact with your local reporters, or any reporter for that matter? The Capital Chapter had the honor of hosting a “Meet the Press” luncheon for members to get to know the people they’re always pitching.
Five local members of the Tallahassee press sat on a panel to discuss best practices, preferences and the art of pitching a good story. The panel consisted of Stan Sanders, news director of CBS WCTV Tallahassee; Tom Urban, assignment editor of News Service of Florida; Rebeccah Lutz, managing editor of the Tallahassee Democrat; Theresa Marsenburg, news director for Capitol Update, the Florida News Channel and; Rahman Johnson, anchor/reporter of BOUNCE TV News and ABC 27 Tallahassee.
There were quite a few takeaways from this panel of experts, however, there were a few that continued to resonate with me days after the discussion came to an end. Each panelist agreed on these four points:
Accuracy is the number one most important thing when pitching a story to a news outlet. Do your fact-checking and make sure the information you are presenting is right. And while it may be a tad embarrassing to admit you need to make a correction, do it anyway. An outlet would rather you follow up with a correction than to publish the wrong information.
Be sure to specify that an event or story is local to your area or state. Sanders said he once received a pitch about a great story he wanted to cover, but reached the end and found out it was happening in another state. Indicate the story is local in the subject line or early on in the pitch/press release.
ESTABLISH RELATIONSHIPS! You only need to know two or three names for any given media source. If you know someone at the outlet you’re pitching, they will be more likely to take the time to respond to you.
Another rule of thumb is to not call during a newscast or at the end of the day. No one will be around to answer you if they are shooting their show. And by the end of the day, most people have mentally checked out for the afternoon.
There was a great turnout at the luncheon with 55 attendees who gained valuable insight into what the press really wants from PR professionals. So the next time you’re about to pitch a local news outlet, think of these four tips. Remember, these came straight from the people we’re pitching to; follow them and it will be smooth sailing.