In the febrile world of social newsfeeds, real time updates, 280 character soundbites and our obsession with ‘the new’ we can sometimes be guilty of underestimating the power of more traditional channels.
A recent CIPR session on media pitching reminded me that more than 300,000 people watch the regional BBC Look North news every night and that local radio has a unique reach and reliability across communities.
As a major NHS organisation this is a key tool in getting our messages out to a broad, local audience.
However with newsrooms getting smaller in times of austerity it can seem more difficult than ever to get your story onto the agenda with so much competition for airtime.
The CIPRNE workshop lined up local journalists from the BBC and commercial radio to offer their top tips on selling your story to newsrooms.
Here are my key takes from the day:
- Think carefully about your pitch for TV or radio before you send it because you will need to capture the attention of producers or journalists who are looking at hundreds or even thousands of others every day. What specifically does your story bring to the broadcast media?
- For TV think visual and understand how pictures will look. Sometimes you may have the best story in the word but if it’s just not visual then it won’t work for TV.
- Don’t use jargon or acronyms no matter how well known they are in your industry. I thought this would have been a basic step but both journalists said they get hundreds of releases littered with them (which then go straight in the bin).
- All stories should be human. Think about case studies and who you can offer for interview. People always make the best stories but this means you also have to think carefully about your spokespeople as well. Is there anything interesting about another man in a suit?
- Some sound advice:if you don’t think it’s a good story then don’t send it (even if there is pressure within your own organisation to do so) If it doesn’t pass your own test as a good story then don’t risk your credibility or your organisations by sending out rubbish.
- The competition is immense because on something like Look North they have 27 minutes per night which means they can only tell between 6-8 stories in each bulletin.
- You need to be canny about timing and context for when you pitch your story (post-bank holiday or January are given as good examples because there’s less competition for space).
- News-jacking other events is increasingly important – how can your story piggyback or make the most of other things happening in the region?
- PR stunts or events are still a very successful way of attracting attention and can work across a range of formats.
- Offering access or letting people behind the scenes is another way or getting broadcast coverage.
Image from Tyne & Wear Archives