Merriam Webster defines pitch as a verb meaning to present (a movie or program idea) for consideration (as by a TV producer). As the definition proves, the idea of the pitch is universal. You have a product, event or service that you want to get out into the public. It’s time to get some positive traction and build some momentum. But getting it on the national morning show is quite different than getting it on air in a small market.
Let’s start with the obvious. Network television has many more people and working components than small market television. You usually need to have a contact just to get an idea in the door at those places.
For small market television, it’s important to realize that there are rarely assignment editors or producers. Usually, the main anchors double as producers/assignment editors. Thus, pinpointing a contact person will be more obvious. Almost all television stations list their anchors on their station’s website. Rarely do you find assignment editors or producers listed.
Once you find the information of one of the anchors, be sure to scan back through the station’s website to make sure that the anchor is still filing stories, as the smaller markets tend to have higher staff turnover. A quicker alternative might be to go to their Twitter account to see if they’ve been posting recently.
Before contacting your anchor, make sure it’s after news meeting time (usually 9:30-10:30 a.m., 1:30-2:30 p.m., exact times vary). Keep in mind that in these markets, the anchors are doing the work of multiple people; their time and attention span are limited, so don’t expect much levity. With that in mind, make sure your email release is top-heavy. If you can send out an advisory first, do it. Follow up with a release, so that they can have it as a reference before you call them.
Some people like to call first before sending anything out. In fact, they have amazing success doing it. Whether you’ve sent them anything or not, get to the important information immediately. Here’s an example of how to do it:
“Good morning, it’s John Engleman from Mitchell Communications Group calling on behalf of Company XYZ. We wanted to invite you to an event next week where Company XYZ is making a significant surprise donation in your area.”
Word economy. To the point.
There will be times when the story and pitch are perfect. The event could even be held in the parking lot of the station (figuratively, of course), but the station still may not be able to cover it. Small market stations are always fighting staffing issues. Be sure to offer pictures of the event with quotes if you don’t have a videographer there. I’ve never been told “no” when offering pictures.
And finally, if it’s an event, and you’re attending, help in any way that you can. Even in mid-size to large markets, reporters are often “one-man-bands” or “MMJ’s (multimedia journalists).” Keep a release of the event on hand for two reasons:
- In case they didn’t have time to print it out, having a hard copy will save them from having to search through email to find the release when writing the story later.
- Use the clean back of the release to help “white-balance” their camera. Nothing’s worse than shooting the heck out of a gorgeous story, and bringing it back to the newsroom just to see blue video. Color correction is an unnecessary time waster when you’re on deadline.
Also, offer to carry batteries, their tripod, their lunch, whatever. Make sure to line up interviews ahead of time for them, and hold the microphone for those interviews if there’s no podium. That will save them time, and allow them to focus on the shot, making the final product look much better on air. That helps them, AND you.
What keys have you found successful when pitching to a small market? Tell us in the comments below, or tweet your responses using the hashtag #mcgblog.