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Detroit TV Execs Share the Ins and Outs of What Catches Their Eye to Garner Coverage

By Cindy Hopman, Corporate Communications Manager, Valassis

Business Wire, in collaboration with PRSA-Detroit and IABC-Detroit, hosted a panel discussion with executives from the city’s three major networks to provide PR professionals insight into their world and how it has changed. We learned more about what catches their eye for not only the 6 o’clock news but news that starts as early as 4:30 a.m. for some morning shows all the way to the traditional 11 o’clock telecast.

Once upon a time, to announce big news, you either issued a press release or held a press conference.  Subsequent front page news and broadcast coverage meant PR success. Today, those are just two tools used to get the news out and by no means do they stand alone. There is pitching, tweeting and blogging to follow up a press release or press conference for coverage in print, online, TV, radio and across social networks with rich media to further enhance the story.

Despite all of these channels to get the news out as well as for coverage, there remains a strong desire to have your story told on the evening news. And today, broadcast coverage may also extend its reach online with video and via social channels. You see, broadcast, too has re-invented itself to remain relevant and capture the attention of its viewers wherever they are.

While Fox 2 Detroit averages 70 hours of news a week, there is much competition for those time slots.  The WDIV Channel 4 NBC affiliate executive indicated her email blows up each morning between 5:55 and 6:15 with an average of 25 pitches hoping to get first in line for potential broadcast coverage. So how do PR professionals get a step up?

Here are just some of the takeaways from the Detroit-area Business Wire-led panel discussion with:

  • Rhonda LaVelle: WXYZ Channel 7 News Director (ABC)
  • Kevin Roseborough: WJBK Channel 2 Vice President and News Director (FOX)
  • Kim Voet: WDIV Channel 4 News Director (NBC)
  • Tom O’Connell, Business Wire/Detroit 

Consider this:

  • Pitch to reporters and producers direct – but first, do your homework and find a reporter whose beat aligns with your news.
  • Pitch your news via email – do not reach out early in the morning or prior to the evening news; be concise yet engaging.
  • Put a human face on pitches
  • Once there is interest, follow up with a call.
  • Strengthen your pitch with visuals i.e. b-roll, infographics, demos, etc.
  • Target morning shows for non-breaking-type stories/features.
  • Search TV station websites for niche opportunities/features.
  • Make your press release impactful in the headline and lead to garner interest. With the multitude TV stations receive daily, they may not read beyond the headline so put your best foot forward as quickly as possible. All three network execs indicated they are looking at press releases for potential coverage.

Broadcasters realize PR professionals/companies may be pitching the same story to all three networks; whenever possible, deliver a slightly different pitch or offer up a different spokesperson. Keep in mind that the TV stations are also competing for viewers and a different angle or brand-messenger can make a difference in coverage on multiple networks. And if the story is engaging, it may be syndicated across network affiliates and shared via the station’s social channels or on their web page. What they share on their websites and across affiliate stations is selective. TV stations too are looking for ways to attract younger viewers and those on the go. Take a step back and look at the broader appeal of the story you are pitching. With this in mind, the reach of the story can extend exponentially across the country and channels.

When assessing the value of a story, consideration is given to those that are consumer-friendly and still maintain the integrity of the show – meaning, don’t be overly promotional. As PR professionals we do follow the Cheers mantra and want “everyone to know our name,” but it’s a fine line that will factor into whether or not the story is deemed newsworthy.

Happy pitching and see you on TV!