Best Pitch Forward: What Reporters Really Need Right Now
April 29, 2020
Media fatigue is real and it comes in many forms.
Consumers are fatigued from hearing disappointing news coming out of the daily press briefings, as well as from within their own community and family circles. Reporters are fatigued from being inundated with irrelevant and ill-considered story pitches, or “spammed” with an abundance of announcements from organizations and PR pros. We have spent the past several weeks talking with reporters, reviewing the media landscape across various industries and identifying ways we can deliver results for clients while maintaining strong relationships with the media contacts we have spent years cultivating. Here are five key takeaways to help guide you:
- Be Considerate and Ask, “What Do You Need?”
Reporters are people too, and just like us they are affected by what’s happening during these uncertain times. They not only are personally living through something extraordinary, but they are also immersed in what’s happening to others in their community as they work to report all the information and news their audiences need. When you reach out to a reporter you know, be genuine and ask how they are doing during this stressful time. Ask them what they are currently looking for, in what format, and how you can work with them.
- No Response Doesn’t Mean No Coverage
Across the board, media outlets are trying to provide as much coverage as possible not only around the pandemic, but other relevant news for audiences. We have found that a lack of response doesn’t mean a reporter hasn’t received the information or that it won’t lead to coverage. On the contrary, many times it’s being filed away for a later date or to be included in an industry round up. Don’t be discouraged, but don’t spam the reporter with too many follow up emails or phone calls.
- Make It Relevant
Don’t beat around the bush—make your pitch relevant and get to the point. Is this something the reporter typically covers? Is it something they are covering right now because outlets are deploying more people to cover the various elements of the pandemic? Be specific in what you are asking and make it easy for the reporter to get the additional information he or she needs. Now more than ever, we need to deliver a full package of information up front so that a media contact knows exactly what the story is and how it connects to what they are working on.
- Be Flexible
The way interviews are handled—particularly with broadcast networks—has changed over the last 6 weeks. In-studio interviews are not possible, and on-site interview subjects need to maintain a 6-foot distance in addition to sporting masks and other protective gear. Be prepared and be flexible with how the interview will be conducted. Zoom interviews, shooting photographs through windows, and less-than-stellar mobile phone video footage are the new norm.
- Tell Me Something Good
Many reporters are trying to find the “something good” that’s out there: feel good stories of communities, organizations and individuals who are making lemonade out of lemons. Most of these media contacts are local or regional and are looking for something positive to share within the communities they serve. Photographers are also searching for this as they contribute to local, regional and national news services to showcase life as we currently know it. If your organization is doing something positive during this time of crisis, share it! Last week FINN client Goodwin House, Inc., a senior living community, hosted a Motown concert on its lawn for residents. The residents joined in the entertainment from their balconies, windows, and even outside (sitting 6-feet apart, of course). As with all activities taking place during COVID-19, this event was planned only a few days ahead of the concert date, yet the media turnout was incredible. Two local news cameras, one radio, and several print reporters and photographers stopped by to capture the moment. The media left with an uplifting story, and, by all accounts, food for their own souls. “I needed this,” one reporter told me later. It’s what we all needed. Something light during a time of darkness.