September 8, 2018In Media Relations on
The local channels in Boston put together a total of 62.5 hours of news every weekday. Each station is averaging 35 stories per hour. That means on any given day you have 2,187 opportunities to get your client coverage that can be seen in millions of households in the Boston area. So why aren’t you? Chances are that you are making some of these big mistakes.
1. You are wasting my time
This is the cardinal sin of pitching television news. As a producer, I receive around 400 emails every day. Reporters are in the same boat and the assignment desk gets even more. 90 percent of them get deleted without ever being opened. Headlines like “Great event this weekend”, or worse “Interview Opportunity” get deleted immediately. When crafting your pitch, you need to think like a journalist. You have six seconds to win my attention and make me stick around for another paragraph. Within the first line I should know why my audience will care about this story. Once you have established that, you can fill in the where and when of the story.
2. You aren’t pitching the right person (at the right time)
You need to know what your story is worth. Generally, there are two types of stories that you will pitch.
VO (Voice-overs): These are the vast majority of stories your client will want you to pitch. They are quick, 20 second scripts that make up the bulk of a newscast. Charity functions, races, product launches, the latest and greatest study from your health care team are all likely voice-overs. Don’t bother a reporter with a VO, they will ignore it. Email a producer and pass along the information to the assignment desk. Be very brief. No one is going to read your release if it’s longer than a page (or even half a page). Also, timing is important. Packages are assigned at the start of the shift.
The producer generally spends the next two to three hours finding stories to fill the rest of the newscast. If you want to save the day, email (OR CALL) the desk and the producers with your pitch while the producers are stacking the show. For the 4/5/6pm that generally happens before noon. If you have an event happening at night, email before 4. If you want to crack the elusive morning show, stay up late and call at midnight. They don’t want to be awake at that hour any more than you do but a morning show needs fresh content more than any other time slot. NEVER call between 5-7 AM, 4-7 PM, or 9-11 PM. They are busy and will likely hang up on you if you ask “will you be covering our event today?”
Packages: If it isn’t a VO, it is a package. Reporters, producers and the assignment desk all pitch stories for packages in the assignment meeting. Get to know people’s names and emails. Keep a list and update it at least every six months. If you think you have a great emotional story then reach out directly to a reporter. Email or call their cell. Promise exclusivity (everyone wants to be only on) and do it at the right time. Most journalist spend the 30 minutes before the assignment meeting searching every source they have for a decent story. You can be a hero by sending the perfect story just in time. The morning meeting (for the noon/4/5/6 PM shows) is usually at 9 AM. The afternoon meeting for the late shows is between 2-3 PM depending on the stations. Don’t be afraid to ask the desk when those meetings take place. On that note, the assignment desk is one of the hardest working group of people. Be nice to them because they are usually the key to getting a reporter or photog at your event.
3. You are accepting defeat
How many times have you had stations confirm they were coming to an event only to back out at the last second? News happens and generally you are pretty low on our priority list, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want to cover the story. We just simply don’t have the bodies. So, take some initiative. If no one shows up to your event, take some pictures, write up a brief synapsis and email it to the station (you should also have a one-page synapsis printed out and ready for every photog and reporter that shows up). If you can get me a picture or video, I am far more likely to run your story even if it is just a quick mention.
4. You aren’t thinking like a journalist
The bulk of pitches I receive describe the event/study/product, but they never really focus on why I should care. News judgement is driven by the question “Why should the audience care about this?” Answer that question immediately in your pitch. A charity walk is not the Xth annual “run to remember this person” or “cure this disease”. It is a gathering of survivors ready to share their story and motivate others to take action. When developing your pitch think about what the audience will care about. What will make someone sit on their couch for another five minutes without going to bed or heading to work? Once you have come up with the pitch, think about what elements you can offer the reporter or producers that will play well on TV. That could be emotional audio or great video. If your client has created some incredible life changing medicine but you can’t provide a compelling patient, your great package just became a 20 second VO.
I recently received a pitch from a PR firm. They wanted to bring someone on for an interview. The pitch was that the person would discuss all the ways that Boston is falling short when it comes to attracting major events. They weren’t thinking like a journalist. I am not going to bring someone on to tell the people of Boston all the ways that their city is failing and doesn’t measure up to other places. Frankly, your client is going to look like an arrogant jerk. This type of story may play on the radio or newspaper, but it isn’t going to work on TV (Print/Radio/TV pitches should be different). You are far too limited by time and format to make that story work in your client’s best interest.
5. You aren’t thinking about what you want from the coverage
Before you ever come up with a pitch you should have a clear understanding of what your clients wants out of the coverage. Are you looking to build awareness for your client, or call people to action? Who is the target audience? The coverage you receive often depends on the pitch you put together. Sending an email about an event the day it occurs might get you a VO recapping the event but won’t help you boost actual attendance. If you pitch one thing, but have expectations of completely different coverage, I am going to ignore you next time.
So, to wrap it all up. Keep it short. Pitch the right people, in the right way, at the right time. When you do pitch a TV station, know why you are doing it and what you can offer the station. These are straightforward ways to get your clients the coverage that they probably deserve.
Joe Chambers is an Emmy-nominated journalist with more than 10 years of experience working in television newsrooms across the country. He currently lives and works in Boston
August 26, 2018
When Dick Pirozzolo, APR, recently worked with Bob Salsberg, AP Boston correspondent, to arrange interviews with Governor Dukakis, and other policy thinkers on Artificial Intelligence (AI) in government, the story resonated with newspapers around the country, including The Boston Globe, The New York Times, The Washington Post and Chicago Tribune.
Pirozzolo credits long-term relationships with journalists and having a timely issue for the media interest, something PRSA advocates when it comes to generating earned media.
The Pirozzolo Company client involved was Boston Global Forum, cofounded by Gov. Michael Dukakis and Vietnam media mogul Tuan Nguyen as a think tank focused on peaceful solutions to international conflicts such as: China’s contentious presence in the South China Sea, North Korea’s nuclear talks, and state-sponsored cyberthreats. Boston Global Forum publishes several newsletters and is always on the lookout for relevant articles and news with a foreign relations angle. Much of the content focuses on Asia.
Here four of the newspapers that covered the emerging role of Artificial Intelligence in government.
For more on how to successfully pitch The Boston Globe from the PRSA Boston meeting with the editors visit: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/globe-goes-all-digital-news-pr-still-relationship-dick-pirozzolo-apr/
April 21, 2018
Larry Edelman, The Boston Globe deputy managing editor, told independent PR agency heads that, while declining print subscriptions portend an all-digital newspaper, building good old-fashioned relationships still counts when it comes to news coverage in New England’s biggest newspaper.
At a recent meeting organized by the Boston Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America, Edelman told some 30 small PR agency owners, “We have 95,000 paid digital subscribers, the highest among regional papers,” which is fast approaching half the total subscribers as “print subscriptions slowly decline.”
With classified advertising for autos, employment and real estate no longer able to support the operation, The Globe has had to increase the cost to the readers for providing them with information. “When we’re charging a lot for the product it really has to be good, and when readers log on they want to get the highest-quality journalism. The paper has to be sold on the merits of quality,” Edelman added.
Given changes in the way people access information, especially international and national news, The Globe has reduced its commitment to staffing bureaus in Washington, DC and overseas. “Our motto is to provide journalism you can’t get anywhere but The Globe.” For media relations pros, that means offering its reporters exclusive, newsworthy information about local businesses and organizations and their impact on the community.
At the meeting, run by public relations consultants Hank Shafran, Edelman emphasized, “It comes down to building individual relationships” for both PR pros and reporters as well. “Even though information is available online, reporters still have to get out of the office to cover stories in person and PR folks have to build relationships with reporters. News is a relationship business – a good batting average though is worse than a major league baseball player,” in terms of successful placements.
Edelman urged PR professionals to look beyond your own client for broader stories with greater impact. He pointed out, “A hotel company that was building properties in the outlaying parts of the city such as Allston and Brighten pitched a story about the business.” Rather than publishing a story about this one company, “The Globe did it as a trend piece, which made it a stronger and more interesting article.” Everybody won.
When asked about whom to contact, he recommended sending email pitches directly to reporters since they know more about the topic and editors have too many additional responsibilities to focus on content, though alerting both the reporters and their editors is acceptable.
Joshua Milne, who focuses on sports promotions and media relations, asked whether editorial visits during which company executives visit the editorial staff in the newsroom to provide background information, with no expectation of coverage are still viable.
Veteran business reporter Jon Chesto is known for taking a lot of editorial meetings. “He meets more people in a day than I meet in a month,” quipped Edelman. Notwithstanding, when publicists pitch stories they need to know the topic. Bray said, “It’s disrespectful to call a reporter and not know what your product is or what it does and then fill the void by using terms like ‘best-in-breed’ or ‘disruptive technology.’”
Bray chided PR people who call at 5 o’clock to pitch stories, and for trying to be creative, “Don’t write a story like ‘Once upon a time,’ just the facts please.”
Other changes at The Globe include The Express Desk, which was started last year and is staffed with 25 reporters and editors to deliver breaking news – “immediate news drives a lot of subscriptions,” Edelman said adding that Express Desk tracks readership and revises headlines if an interesting story isn’t drawing readership.
In addition to the Spotlight Team, the famous investigative reporting unit featured in the eponymous Oscar winning movie about sex abuse in the Catholic Church, Edelman, noted, “We created a subset of the Spotlight Team that, instead of spending months on a story is poised for quick investigations that might take only a week or two. One of its latest accomplishments was an investigative report on a recent Massachusetts State Police scandal over no-show traffic details.
Despite the modern newsroom in the heart of the financial district, the absence of the monster Web press, and a hugely successful formula for a digital newspaper of the future, Edelman said some things in Boston remain constant: “Who’s driving the most subscriptions? It’s still sports.”
Dick Pirozzolo, APR of Pirozzolo Company Public Relations is a Boston communication consultant whose credentials as a professional journalist include membership in The Society of Professional Journalists, The Foreign Press Association of New York and the National Press Club of Washington, DC.
April 10, 2017Larry Edelman, The Boston Globe business editor, offered his take on how one of the nation’s top newspapers—the biggest in New England— is meeting the challenges of new information technology and a rapidly shifting readership.
Edelman told the dozen-plus Boston Public Relations Society of America members assembled in The Tom Winship Room, just off the newsroom, “The Globe is tailored to be an online news operation that also happens to print a newspaper,” except now the overhead and salaries have to come from subscriptions rather than advertising. “When subscriptions pay my salary, we have to give readers something they are willing to pay for.”The Globe’s online paid circulation is over 70,000, the highest among any regional newspaper in the US and, between BostonGlobe.com and its free regional website Boston.com, the paper garners a million unique hits a day.The Globe has to stand out Edelman said, “We don’t want to be in the commodity news business. We want to cover ideas, not companies with obligatory news stories simply because they are big and old.”Edelman told the group he believes the Boston economy is well positioned with a diverse range of forward- looking industries such as biotechnology,real estate development, medicine and education. “We’re in a bubble but it’s a lucky bubble.”The emphasis is also on covering those industries from the perspective of how they impact the lives of people in the region. Explained Edelman, “We are at the intersection of people who create and the money,” adding that Trump’s “preposterous 20-percent cut to NIH [the National Institute for Health] would be disastrous to this area.”Given the importance of medicine and biotechnology regionally, The Globe last year launched STAT a premium subscription service offering exclusive reporting about the pharmaceutical and biotech industries as well as newsletters, invitations to events, early access to special reports, and other reader benefits.The Globe is evaluating its news beats to reflect shifting interests as well. “The business of food is an increasingly popular topic that pulls in new readers and is getting more attention editorially.”Deadlines have changed too. “Our readership swells between 6 AM and 1-2 PM so our best stories have to be up in the morning—when our readers are online. Filing new stories at 4-5 PM in the afternoon should be for the next day’s edition.”The editorial staff is about half of what it once was during the heyday of print, The Globe is moving to smaller quarters in downtown Boston with the printing plant located in Taunton and run as a separate business. It prints the competing Boston Herald and other publications. The Globe’s emphasis on great journalism and its institutions will continue. Notably The Spotlight Team, which was awarded an Oscar for the motion picture “Spotlight” will remain firmly in place.Though The Globe, and other newspapers are moving inexorably to publishing exclusively online, we’ll probably still be calling them newspapers for many years to come.No matter. We still dial the phone.By Dick PirozzoloAbout IPN
A Special Interest Section founded in Boston, the Independent Practitioners Network was formed as a collaborative of seasoned PR professionals operating as consultants or as small firms in and around eastern Massachusetts. We facilitate partnerships to win or service business; share best practices across our many specialization areas; provide each other with client service or practice management support; and foster community and collaborations among the independent PR people who belong to PRSA Boston. @PRSABoston #PRSABos