Breaking News: Insider Tips on Pitching From a Former TV News Reporter

Close up of a news camera recording a reporter

This just in: After a decade in the breaking-news world of broadcast journalism, much of it as a TV reporter in New York City, I made the leap from receiving pitches to crafting them. Needless to say, in my years in front of the camera I received my fair share of pitches. Some were clear winners, guaranteed to land on air (a local company donates a pair of socks to a children’s shelter for every pair sold) others were lackluster and rarely made it past my inbox (a CEO named to the [insert magazine] top 100 list).

Now, whenever I draft a pitch, I put my journalist hat back on and visualize the hundreds of press releases I’ve seen. What made me open one? How did that one stand out among others? Why did I pursue that story? While there’s no one exact formula, you should consider these insider tips before you send your next broadcast pitch.

Be Conversational

When I worked in broadcast, I can't tell you how many times I would open my inbox to find a pitch filled with overly technical jargon and cliches. The first skill you're taught as a broadcast journalist is to write the way you speak; it’s how the stories are made teleprompter ready. So take a break from AP style for a moment and read your pitch aloud. If it doesn't sound like something you'd say or it isn't in the present tense, rework it. Doing so improves the odds of your story idea getting picked up — without any points being lost in translation.

Insider Insight: Most broadcast journalists prefer email pitches. It gives them more flexibility and (as you’ll read in the next tip) allows you to include supporting content to help your pitch stand out.

Be Visual

TV news is a 24/7 beast, with a never-ending appetite for content. If you're able to ease the workload of a couple of folks in the newsroom, your pitch will have a better chance of being picked up. Providing your own video content is a great way to do this.  If a producer can't find file/archival video to tell your story, it’s at a much higher risk of being killed. So consider adding B-roll (background footage) and MOS (man on the street) interviews the next time you reach out to a broadcast journalist. It's also a great way to ensure your pitch stays on-message when it hits the screen.

Pitch the Weekends

Most newsrooms have skeleton crews work weekends and holidays. That means everyone from producers and reporters to assignment editors and photographers are asked to do even more with even less. Morning shows, in particular, often have hours to fill, with far fewer folks to gather the content. Be strategic and pitch some of those softer stories that might be less attention grabbing during the week. 

Insider Insight: For most stations, Sunday evening is the most-watched newscast of the week, so that morning is a great time to pitch (if you’re willing to eat up a little of your weekend).

Get to Know Your Target

Who are you pitching? Take a look at a producer, reporter, or assignment editor’s social media handles, and if possible, pitch stories that align with their interests. For stories that are a week or more out, consider reaching out to the station’s planning editor. They're a great resource to help you navigate the logistics of getting your story on-air and to help keep it on the relevant journalist's radar.

Watch the Clock

Most newsrooms hold two daily planning meetings, one in the early morning and one in the early afternoon. So get those pitches in before 8 a.m. when an assignment editor is on the hunt for stories or between the morning and mid-day news. And be sure to check out the station’s news schedule. It’s generally not a good idea to send pitches during a newscast. 

Insider Insight: Before you click send, take a look at the news of the day and tailor your pitch accordingly. And if there’s breaking news that your story idea doesn’t tie into, consider holding onto your pitch until a better time.

Don't Forget About Digital

Despite the rapid growth of digital news in local TV, digital editors/producers are still often overlooked by PR folks when it comes to pitching. So if you pitch someone on the digital desk, you have a better chance of getting eyeballs on your story. To win them over, package the story for digital by sending along some photos and videos that can be easily crafted into a catchy slideshow or online video news story.

During my years in broadcast, I witnessed first-hand how quickly the landscape is changing and the heightened levels of creativity required to stand out. Understanding the ins and outs of the television news world and what is truly valuable to reporters is critical to break through the noise.  Let us help your brand get the attention it deserves with the right media strategy for you.

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