The Do’s and Don’ts of Pitching Local Broadcast Media

By Anne Stanley

Bob reporting live from JLSBuilding strong, long-term relationships is key to being successful in public relations. Here at Engage, we pride ourselves on putting emphasis on the “R” in “PR.” That’s why we recently paid a visit to the KTVU studio in Jack London Square, which is about a 15 minute walk from our office. While there, we had the opportunity to pick the brain of Amber Eikel, Assistant News Director and our tour guide for the day. She shared some of her top tips for PR professionals looking to place their clients on local news channels. Here are some of the key takeaways:

Pick up the phone

The best way to pitch for television is to get someone on the phone. News directors, producers and anchors are constantly bogged down by hundreds of emails day in and day out so the odds of your pitch getting lost in the mess is pretty high. If you don’t know your target’s personal number or extension, your best bet is to call the news desk and ask for your contact by name. Once you get your contact on the phone, be sure to reference past materials and trends they’ve covered to show that you’ve done your homework and know they are the right person to hear your pitch. They’re more likely to respond favorably to your pitch if they know you didn’t reach out to them just because they work at the station.

Think local, but not too local

Local stories don’t necessarily have to involve geographically local companies. As long as the story is relevant to local audiences and/or reflects broader trends that will impact the general viewership, local news stations will be open to your pitch. Advances in technology and communications continue to make the world a smaller and more connected place, making “local” news increasingly more important to broader audiences across the country. So don’t scrap that pitch just because your client is on the other side of country. Try to find the larger picture and explain in your pitch why local audiences would care.

Ask for feedback

You did everything right, or so you thought. You got your contact on the phone, you pitched them a story that local audiences would care about, you offered additional materials and you followed up in a timely manner without being irritating. But no coverage resulted! Before you start making assumptions about why your pitch was a flop, reach out to your contact and ask why the story didn’t work for them and what you can do better next time. They may not respond, but if they do, take their feedback and apply it the next time you pitch them. They will appreciate the fact that you’ve taken their advice to heart and it will help strengthen your relationship.

As with any other type of media, each news station has their own preferences when it comes to the pitching process and the stories they like to cover. It’s important to take the time to build your relationships with local producers and news directors in order to learn about those preferences, which is one way Engage PR is able to continually deliver stellar results to our clients. Whether it’s scheduling an office-wide field trip to your local station, or sending a quick Tweet commending a reporter on a recent story, showing that you’re not just a pitching machine will increase your chances of successfully placing your clients on local news programs.

Do you have any stories about how you successfully pitched a local broadcast outlet? Share your tips and tricks with us on Twitter at @EngagePR or leave a comment on our Facebook page. Now get out there and pitch!

A look back at Media Predicts 2016 and what was said…

By: Bob Eastwood, Leslie Cumming, Elise Vue and Reno Ybarra

MediaPredicts-eVite-header_finalRecently, Engage PR sent four lucky employees to Media Predicts 2016 to learn what they could and report back here. Produced by PRSA Silicon Valley, this annual pre-holiday event features top technology and business media discussing what was hot or not in 2015 and what technologies, companies, trends and issues will be hot in 2016. Moderated by NBC News’ local tech and business reporter Scott Budman, the panel comprised of a diverse mix of accomplished reporters including: Re/code’s Senior Editor Ina Fried, The Verge’s Senior Technology Editor Lauren Goode, Associated Press’ Technology Editor David Hamilton, Fusion’s Senior Editor Kashmir Hill, USA Today’s Managing Editor Laura Mandaro and Bloomberg News’ Reporter Adam Satariano.

In a nod to the audience, Budman kicked the event off by sharing a question he’s often asked: “How do I get access to billionaires in Silicon Valley?” His response was that the best way is to have relationships with everyone in this room. Aww, thanks Scott.

Then he kicked off the panel in earnest with a question relating to a recent announcement by Mark Zuckerberg—is this the year social responsibility becomes not the exception but the rule in Silicon Valley? A dubious outcome but a timely topic as Jack Dorsey also recently committed a small fortune to charity and other interests. Mandaro’s response, “It would be more telling if/when we see others outside the C-suite also donating. That could really move the needle.” The remaining consensus? Most likely not.

What is the hot new tech in the valley? Am I the only one who is afraid that amateur drones will darken the skies on the day after Christmas? No Budman, you’re not the only one. This led Goode to discuss the value that apps can add in the use of drones as well as pointing out the safety issues involved, where Fried chimed in. A question about privacy and security led to an interesting discussion of walled gardens, data in personal clouds, the trade-off between the two concerns and what the government might, or might not, do about any of it.

Budman noted the panel was comprised of a majority of women this year and that it may have been the first time ever which kicked off a discussion about diversity in the valley. Discussions revolved around the issue that diversity is more than just about women. It’s about being diverse. Period. Budman then pivoted to a discussion on whether this will this be the year the so-called bubble bursts and we see declines in sales and stock price from the likes of Apple? This question produced near-unanimous agreement among the panelists—no, not this year.

Budman asked what are the companies that will make big news in 2016, and who haven’t we heard of yet? Slack, Magic Leap, Cisco (Cloud) and 23andMe were the panel’s answers. Goode figured healthcare was an industry ripe for some technological disruption though Satariano declared we would not see disruption in healthcare in 2016 due to the industry’s many regulations and cited Oscar health insurance as a good idea held back by regulation. An interesting discussion of artificial intelligence and its growing usage ensued, with Satariano commenting that even incremental efficiencies can have a big impact on the labor market and Hamilton noting how quickly things have progressed, citing voice recognition as an example.

The evening ended with perhaps the most interesting question of all coming from the audience: What did the panel think about disruption in its own industry and where was it headed in 2016? Fried noted, “there will be fewer of us and more of you (PR people),” and was very impressed with the BuzzFeed model saying they were producing some really good journalism. Goode commented how journalism has always lived off of ad dollars from the likes of department stores and other commercial interests. She told how, at the behest of an editor pursuing increased clicks, she had recently posted an article then spent the majority of her day promoting it on various social mediums—time she felt could have been used to research another story. As a result, she had advice for PR practitioners, “don’t send long pitches because we have to be more mindful of how we use our time now.” Hamilton recalled an old quote about the industry with a new twist: “Journalism has always been a bit of a parasite, living off of commercial advertising dollars. What we need is a new, healthy host!”

Indeed, thriving media are critical to the sustainability of our Democracy and as public relations people who rely on the industry for our living, we hope 2016 brings many robust and profitable new business models to media.

(Note, quotes are generally paraphrased and not verbatim)

See Engage in Action and Get Your Share of Voice at DemoPalooza 2015!

By Mike Tomlinson
fac0bc2efb9b4518a04da57145035eda
Calling all technology vendors in Silicon Valley–join us at the Telecom Council of Silicon Valley’s DemoPalooza event, being held the evening of Wednesday, December 16 at Nokia Growth Partners in Sunnyvale! Not only will Engage be showcasing our top-notch capabilities and services to attendees, but we’ll be providing complimentary on-demand Share of Voice analysis which will help companies better understand who dominates the media landscape among themselves and competitors.

As a specialist in public relations for technology companies and a member of the Telecom Council of Silicon Valley, Engage is in-tune with the marketing communications needs of companies in this market. With new technologies like SDN and NFV disrupting traditional vendor go-to-market strategies and the bandwidth explosion brought on by cloud adoption leading to a breakneck pace of data consumption, vendors need a PR and marketing strategy executed by proven domain experts that leverages key industry trends while achieving measurable differentiation from competitors. If your current PR strategy or partner is missing the mark, click here to schedule a one-on-one meeting with a senior Engage representative during DemoPalooza.

Visit the DemoPalooza webpage for more info and event registration. We’ll see you there!

Writing Better Pitches: A Reporter’s Perspective (Broad Brush)

by: Dan Rubin

blog-WriteBetterPitches

Author’s note: The irony is not lost on me. What follows will inevitably be too long, landing in direct conflict with my central premise; PR people need to shorten the pitch. Keep in mind, I am not pitching anything to you here. You came here willingly, and you can go as you please. So forgive me, but every writer needs a little indulgence every now and then.

Email Entrail
Being a reporter any time after the millennium redefines the word “busy.” If you’ve never been a reporter, just accept that you don’t know what busy is, and we’ll move on.

Without question, every reporter you’re thinking of pitching has about 20 GBs of emailed pitches sitting in their inbox. The other emails are from their IT Department, scolding them for taking up precious space on the company server with 1+ year old email.

If a reporter’s eyes ever glance upon your words, consider it a “win.” Your rate of success in this category is tied to how well you compose a subject line.

When the first words read are “PRESS RELEASE,” my index finger slides a little bit closer to the “delete” button. I know, AP told you to write like that, but I’ll tell you from experience, even people who work for the Associated Press don’t write like that. Good writers write to their audience.

You’re better off going with a subject line that’s original, but not esoteric (“esoteric” is too esoteric). Something that speaks to the kind of work that reporter or that outlet publishes.

You might be tempted to invite curiosity. Don’t. Good reporters always bring a bag of questions to every party, so they don’t have time to answer yours. Stick with actual information in the subject line. Reporters are trained to listen for “who, what, when, where, why.” Everything else never cracks the skull.

Bury the Length, Not the Lead
If you lure a reporter into the body of your email, kudos. Now that you’re only a chip and tricky putt away from PR Nirvana, don’t blow it by burying your intent.

I once read two long paragraphs of a press release that failed to mention who, what, when, where or “why?” I don’t know how I ever made that memory. I must’ve been redefining “bored” too.

I get sad now, thinking about that little miracle, one-in-a-billion email that never took flight. The terrible author got two minutes of attention from someone who won’t even glance at good writing for more than half-a-second. It’s a shame imparting knowledge like “the flowers and the stars have a shared, collective energy” doesn’t inspire coverage like it should.

You Wanna Help? Help!
Don’t create a bunch of work for the reporter. It won’t get done. Most scribes are not paid to do research. They’re paid to write.

Public relations people are paid to help.

A good pitch usually takes some form of “you need stories? I got one for you…helpful friend that I am!”

Pitch stories that are “shovel ready.” Be ready with all the facts, figures, and format-appropriate materials to help the reporter tell your story. It doesn’t hurt to send an anchor toss to your story (stay tuned for tips on writing for broadcast). If you’re pitching TV people, attach some B-Roll. Photos or graphics are good too. Radio people feel the same way about “actualities” (pre-recorded sound).

Cover Your Checks
Don’t make false promises. When you tell a busy reporter “the CEO of the company is available for interviews,” he/she better be sitting out in the parking lot with makeup on. If your story is going to run, it needs to run NOW! When the green light is on, you’re on the station’s clock too, and no three hands are less-forgiving.

That last line will probably hit home with you after your story airs. In all likelihood, if you’ve never been part of a news cycle before, you will walk away angry about the way the station made you look, or how they didn’t let your exec talk about the things they wanted to talk about. The most likely culprit is time. 24 hours to fill with attentions spanning 2.4 seconds, and 2.3 or 2.5 creates a broadcast apocalypse.

Never fear, a conclusion is near
Many broadcasters believe the apocalypse is already nigh. People are terrified; scared for their jobs, scared about a fragmenting audience, scared to do anything different for fear of looking stupid. It’s a reactionary industry, never proactive.

What broadcast media needs is a change of approach. Many public relations professionals could stand to change their approach to broadcast media.

News outlets do get one thing right; when pitted against any other human emotion, fear always wins. Put that wisdom into action.

News stations are scared to offer free advertising (ads keep the lights on), but they’re utterly terrified of getting scooped by other media. Try playing to the industry’s insecurities with something like: “you could be the first to talk about X, otherwise you’re going to sound outdated” might be a good lead.

You could also play to the media’s fear-mongering prowess. “Identity theft is destroying lives by the thousands! Company X has a better way” could get some traction for your data security firm. If the same company is making a push in health care, your subject line could read “Granny Cash Grab!”

I’m not kidding. There’s nothing better than a cheesy, three-word pitch. Be afraid! Newsrooms are that scary.

Just don’t fear being turned down. Rejection, and learning how to deal with it, is central to all media professions. Own it. Have fun with it, and always remember that, no matter how bad you miss, you’ll get to try again. Sure as the sun will rise, broadcast media cycles anew every single day.

WHAT ARE ENGAGERS THANKFUL FOR?

At Engage, we have the opportunity each day to work with some of the brightest minds in tech PR. We are fortunate to have a number of different personalities whom collaborate to provide excellent service to our clients. With that being said we wanted to take the opportunity to share what we are thankful for this holiday season. We believe it is important to remember how fortunate we are to have such a great opportunity to work with such remarkable people.

Ken Ozeki

Ken Ozeki, Associate Account Executive: I’m thankful for verification tools like AppAnnie and Compete.com so I can see through digital shill and fluff.

Reno Ybarra

Reno Ybarra, Account Manager: I’m thankful for an agency that provides the opportunity to get involved in so many aspects of the business. From learning how to manage people to helping develop and promote marketing materials to pitching prospective clients, Engage has provided me with opportunities that I would not have access to at another firm.

Karimah Hay

Karimah Hay, Intern: I’m thankful for the opportunity to not only learn from but also work with some of the brightest minds in tech PR.

Elise Vue

Elise Vue, Associate Account Executive: Thankful for Google and co-workers.

Anna Singman

Anna Singman, Office Manager: I’m thankful for getting to work with smart and funny co-workers. They make me laugh every day.

Leslie Cumming

Leslie Cumming, Account Director: Thankful for the opportunity to engage with a creative and dynamic team and clients.

Leslie Johnson

Leslie Johnson, VP of Accounts: I am thankful for the opportunity Engage gives me to be creative, continue to grow and learn, and shorten my commute.

Mike Tomlinson

Mike Tomlinson, Account Manager: I’m thankful for all the industry events I’ve had the privilege to attend this year—RSA, Intel Developers Forum, the Telecom Council of Silicon Valley TC3 event, and so many more! These events are great for meeting not just with industry influencers like media and analysts, but to see what cool new technologies companies and innovative startups are offering. Not to mention all the trade show swag decorating my desk!

Anne Stanley

Anne Stanley, Account Coordinator: I’m thankful to be challenged every day and for free conference swag.

Dan Rubin

Dan Rubin, Account Coordinator: I’m grateful for expanding cloud services and execs who aren’t too scared to go big.

Bob Eastwood

Bob Eastwood, Senior Account Executive: I’m thankful for the disaggregation of proprietary hardware into multiple software modules that will enable operators to pick and choose the exact functionality they need for their deployments while avoiding vendor lock-in and how this will enable new and unforeseen business models and innovative services for all of us leading to a virtuous cycle in the broadband industry. Long live SDN and NFV!

Jeannette Bitz

Jeannette Bitz, Agency Owner: As I close out my fifth year as the owner of Engage, I’m grateful for all of our clients, who are smart and bring unique approaches and solutions to the market. Most importantly, I’m thankful for this particular class of employees. I’ve been fortunate to have worked with some very talented PR professionals, but this group of employees is special beyond words. They’re dynamic and passionate about PR, our clients and the agency! All have helped me become a better strategist and agency owner.