An Interview with Washington Business Report Anchor, Rebecca Cooper
When it comes to pitching broadcast, there are really only two very important things to know: who to pitch and how to pitch. HA! Easier said than done, right? Well, lucky for you (and me), I was able to sit down with Rebecca Cooper, anchor of Washington Business Report on the local ABC news station, to talk a bit about these two very important media relations skills.
Here are the dos and don’ts of WHO to pitch:
DO pitch a specific reporter who covers a specific topic. Typically, each reporter is expected to pitch three or so different story ideas every morning in a planning meeting, so, you have a good chance of your story being covered, if not by the reporter you pitched, by another.
DO pitch a specific producer, when it’s a high profile reporter you’re after. If it’s a well-known reporter you’re pitching, it’s often best to send an email to the producer you know works directly with them in order to rise above the clutter in their ever-growing inboxes.
DON’T only pitch the assignment desk. The assignment desk editors may be the ones calling the shots, but since they’re seeing so many story ideas coming through, it’s easy for your story to be overlooked.
Here are the dos and don’ts of HOW to pitch:
DO customize your broadcast pitch to the reporter. Just as you would tailor a print or online pitch to an individual writer’s beat, tailor your broadcast pitch to a reporter who covers a certain topic, or has in the past. A micro pitch (very personalized) is much more effective than a macro pitch (blasting a large list) because it gives the reporter a deadline and some added incentive.
Rebecca said, “I get hundreds of blast pitches a day. Unique pitches? I’m lucky if I get two a week.” Now that’s just a shame, isn’t it!?
DO butter them up, just a little. But seriously, let the reporter know that you respect them and their time by taking the time yourself to look into the type of stories they cover.
DO find a peg. Know what’s going on in the local market you’re pitching, and find some way to tie your pitch into a current event.
DO offer an exclusive. It really works – as long as it looks and really is exclusive. Put the word “exclusive” right in the subject line of your email.
DO give the reporter a deadline. No, seriously! Reporters live on and respond to deadlines. It’s what they’re comfortable with – and they love the thrill of it!
DON’T call unless absolutely necessary. Start with an email, and then follow up with another email reminding them of your deadline. At this point, it’s OK to call if you’ve still not received a response. Typically, broadcast reporters don’t mind being “pestered” via email. Email reminders every once in a while to make sure your first note was received is appreciated and welcomed.
DON’T ask if they want to grab coffee. The sad but honest truth is “ain’t nobody got time for that.” Plus, telling them you need a meeting to talk about a story idea makes it seem like too much of a hassle to cover. A reporter wants to know your story is interesting, yet simple enough that it can be shared over a quick email or phone call – not something that will take an in-person meeting to discuss.
Pitching is not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing.
Keep in mind that these tips, although likely applicable to many local affiliate stations, are coming directly from one affiliate station in Washington, D.C. It’s important to get to know one contact at every news station in the market that you’re pitching. Understand the “taste” of the news they frequently cover, and how their system operates.
What’s the most helpful piece of feedback you’ve ever received from a reporter in your pitching efforts? DO tell me in the comments section and DON’T hold back!