When I was a young aspiring journalist, I had grand ideas of newsrooms like the one in “All the President’s Men.” Reporters with hours, days and even months to work on a story. Boy, was I in for a surprise. Don’t get me wrong, there are still special projects units inside some large market newsrooms that afford journalists some time to work on a story. However, those longer lead stories are often piled on top of a reporter’s daily stories they are required to complete. The broadcast newsrooms of today are made up of much smaller staffs doing triple the amount of work than reporters were doing five or ten years ago. As a former reporter in a large market, I typically turned two full packages, a VO (Voice over) or VOSOT (Voice Over Sound on Tape) and the obligatory social media posts in one day. This leaves little time to respond to emails or have endless calls about story pitches.
Why is this important? When you pitch a story to an audience, you need to understand that audience. Before you send your next broadcast pitch, keep these things in mind regarding newsrooms today:
1. The reporter you’re reaching out to is probably slammed with work.
As mentioned above, I turned out multiple stories a day. Reporters are doing more than ever, which means it is harder to get their attention. Even if you manage to catch their eye with an interesting pitch, they may not be able to do the story because of staff and resource shortages.
TIP: Don’t give up. If a reporter doesn’t respond it doesn’t mean your pitch is terrible, they just simply may not have the time. Remember the constraints they are under and don’t be afraid to follow up with them if they don’t respond.
2. 5/6/10/11 deadlines are a thing of the past.
Although reporters do still have a hard slot time they must make for the given show their package is in, there is no time to waste when it comes to getting information out to the public. When they ask PR professionals for information, we need to get it to them as soon as possible. Reporters are looking to put information immediately on the web and on their social media channels.
TIP: Make it easy on the reporter by ensuring all of your pitch elements and story resources are lined up. Have your client or spokesperson available for an interview once your pitch is sent. Reporters recognize and remember a helpful PR professional.
3. Beats are still relevant, but not as much as ten years ago.
With smaller staffs, most newsrooms do not have the luxury of assigning specific beats to each reporter. However, reporters naturally have their own areas of interest.
TIP: Try to connect with reporters and get to know what they like to cover even if it isn’t specifically outlined in their bio. They are much more likely to bite on a story pitch if it’s a topic they are interested in.
Header photo courtesy of Nathan Rupert via Flickr.