How to Pitch Local News: The Beginner's Guide

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If I had a dollar for every time someone told me that they were perfect for the Today Show, that a segment on Good Morning America would change their life or that The View would love their story I'd be rich.  Well I'd at least be on the Saks Fifth Avenue shoe floor a good part of every weekend.  Though these statements may at times be true, there's another place that your story could be perfect for, that could change your life and an outlet that could love your story even faster....This place is your local morning news show.

Before you scoff at redirecting your energy towards local television when you know that the national morning show hosts just don't know what they are missing yet, let me remind you that landing segments on your local television station has huge benefits, whether you're in New York City where local segments are the closest thing to national morning news you'll get without being national (because producers of national morning shows are also tuning in to their local news) or a smaller town like Battle Creek, MI (my hometown) where you'd actually be surprised at the amount of eyeballs on your segment. You're actually often getting included in larger metropolitan area newscasts - in our case in Michigan, the Grand Rapids & Kalamazoo stations.  

So Why Spend Time on Local Press?

* If you have never done television or do not have a strong reel (or a reel at all) you need to film locally for the practice, to get your television legs, to build your reel, and to build buzz by leveraging this press into larger stories and growing your reputation in your hometown.

* You need to master your television pitches.  The more you pitch locally and begin to land segments, the more you'll be able to see what works and what doesn't, you'll begin to develop relationships with producers, and you will be able to practice key segments with without the pressure of a live national audience watching you.

* People buy locally!  People love to support a local story.  Whether you are an expert, product-based company or a service I'm sure several people in your hometown will not only be interested in a "hometown hero" or "cool local business" angle and support you and your brand, and the more your story is known around town, the more the connections, relationships, sales and customers will start knocking at your door (or filling your email inbox).

What To Do Before, During and After Getting a Local Morning Show Segment?

* Always follow the biggest rule of public relations and know your outlet.  Not all morning news shows are alike - in fact the more you get to know them the more you'll see the style of the anchors, the special regular segments they produce, the way they like to film (from the type of guests to whether they shoot on location or not).  The more you know these things the more you can tailor your story and pitch to that outlet's needs, meaning a faster placement.

* Be sure you show how your segment will be useful to their viewers, or at the very least relatable.  Make sure it's clear how they will be able to use your information and why it's relevant to them in your pitch.

* Before calling be sure you create a short, to the point pitch script you can follow if you are reaching out via phone - you don't want to suffer from a momentary memory loss and freeze up forgetting your great ideas!

* Also prepare a pre-written email pitch that you can send over to them in follow up, as they will prefer to most communication via email after your initial outreach.  Make sure it includes a brief introuction to you, your website and the pitch (get to the point) along with bullets that can illustrate your point/share how the segment will go (in other words what you will do for the 3-5 minutes you are on air).

* When beginning your outreach, start with the newsdesk.  By pitching them first, you'll be directed to the producer or news reporter that is best suited for your story.  It will also be a great way to help you practice your phone pitching.

* When pitching, be sure you have a media kit, press release or at the very least a company FAQ ready to go so that when they ask for that you don't have to hesitate and lose your momentum.

* If you are sharing an event or a news announcement have a press release about it or media alert already prepared before reaching out to the press.

* Never promise anything you cannot deliver, and do not lie about your experience with the press prior to this potential segment.  That is another reason why local press is a great place to start, as they are more likely to take you on with little (or no) experience.  That said no matter what you will need a biography and photo of yourself to pass along.

* Pitch something that is relevant to the hot news stories or trends of the day.  Also keep in mind for bigger stories (Mother's Day, Earth Day, gift guides, special holidays) the press - even tv - is working ahead of time and books key stories in advance.

* When you pitch, be ready to go at a moment's notice.  Recently a member of Tin Shingle did a segment for NBC during Fashion Week, and between the time the pitch was called in to when she was on air, roughly 2.5 hours passed - she had to be ready to go and this meant had something to wear, talking points down and a confident, tv ready attitude which made her easy to work with, and someone the press would call again.

* When you schedule a segment, be sure you get all the information you need to make it a stress-less day:  Arrival time, segment time, whether you need to do your own hair and make-up or will they, what information they need prior to the segment (photos, website, the correct way to spell your name, bullet points, props), what props you need to bring in and who your point person is when you arrive.  Put all of this on a schedule for yourself for the big day.

* Remember that visuals make for a great segment - so when you're planning and pitching, think about what visuals you can bring in, and share this in your pitch.  Then be sure you bring them and create a visually stimulating scene.

* Practice!  Run your talking points with a friend or colleague before you go on-air, and have them also test out questions that may come out on you - though reporters often follow a script, they very often throw questions out that weren't planned but that tie into the story, be aware this may happen and be able to roll with them.

* Be prepared!  Review the segment with the producer prior to going on air.  Practice using your props, pick out an outfit that is tv friendly (no crazy patterns, no white outfits, nothing that is too tight or too loose or wrinkled, no distracting jewelry), and decide how you will do your hair to keep it looking chic, professional and out of the way.

* Get ready to have a great time!  You should enjoy this experience, and the more you do the more they will come to you!

* When you're on the air, be sure you talk slowly, look at the reporter, speak clearly and breathe!  Also, be sure to talk in soundbites, don't drone on and on for ages.

* Find subtle ways to be sure your company name and website are included in the newscast, both when the reporter introduces you with it, and by finding a clever and subtle way to weave it into your segment discussion.

* After the segment thank everyone from the production crew who helped you to the reporter to the producer.  Be sure to get the producer's card and follow up with a thank you email.  Keep working on this relationship by keeping in touch and sharing future stories that are a good match for them.

* Be sure to use social media before and after your segment to connect and share the excitement with your brand ambassadors.

Above all - have fun!  When you enjoy your brand and telling its story, others will connect with both you and your company and both the story and your visibility will grow! If you are still having trouble writing your pitch to the press, consider our Pitch Whispering Program, a service that will re-write what you have, and will teach you how to make it better for future pitches.

Knowing how to pitch the media is a major step to securing press for your brand. At Tin Shingle, we empower small businesses, experts and young and established brands to make this happen through our unique membership program. Once you unlock membership, you can have instant access to Media Contacts at major magazines, Editorial Calendars, select PR Leads, an all-access pass to all classes in our .EDU Education Program, a connection to a trusted community of other businesses who are going through what you are experiencing as you grow your brand. Click here to learn more about membership with Tin Shingle.

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Expert: 
Sabina Hitchen
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