7 Tips for Pitching TV Reporters During the Coronavirus Outbreak

Pitching TV reporters

By Julie Wright — President

Local news anchors have always broadcast into our living rooms, but suddenly they’re the ones inviting us into their homes. From New York to L.A., television news reporters are reporting from home so they can stay safe while keeping the public informed.

The public is hungry for storytelling that informs, entertains and comforts, and, thankfully, news reporting is an essential service. Organizations like the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) have Guidance for Newsrooms to keep broadcasters safe; however, the association’s number one recommendation is that they avoid the newsroom.

For tips on how media relations professionals should be pitching TV reporters in this environment, we talked to Joe Little, a multimedia journalist and news reporter for NBC 7 San Diego where he’s also director of storytelling.

1. Reporting While Social Distancing

Reporting remotely is nothing new to Little, but social distancing is. “The biggest challenge has been being creative while being safe.”

“Some of us still venture out into the world to get our interviews done,” says Little, who works solo. “We are just extremely careful and considerate when we do so. I no longer put a microphone on my characters. I have them walk up to a stationary microphone that I’ve already put into position so we can talk safely across a room from each other.”Pitching TV reporters during COVID-19

When pitching TV reporters, instead of offering a journalist a talking head on FaceTime, offer them an opportunity via video chat to join a family dinner table discussion, a team meeting or a site tour.

For instance, Little recently interviewed several residents who stood outside of their homes and talked from a balcony and through a closed window.

2. Interviewing Over Video Chat

A promise of a good interview will go a long way, says Little. However, interview subjects—or, as he calls them, characters—need to be tech savvy. “If it’s a situation where the interview has to be done using FaceTime or Zoom, it would be great if the people we were interviewing actually knew how to use a camera,” said Little.

If you or your spokespeople follow these basics when setting up for interviews, you might find reporters coming back to you or your organization for more:

  • Horizontal screen orientation
  • Camera placed at eye level
  • Camera on a flat, steady surface
  • Clear and even lighting on your face
  • Muted alerts and ringers
  • Fully charged batteries or a power source
  • Solid and steady Wi-Fi signal

Try to take the same attitude as Little: “Even though I’m working from home, I still try to make my stories look better than anyone else’s. The people who say yes to an interview deserve that effort.”

 3. Contributing Stills or B-Roll

In the past, network affiliates like NBC San Diego haven’t used submitted video unless absolutely necessary. Times have changed, notes Little, and right now reporters are more willing to talk with their bosses about taking video from the people they interview.

Independent stations tend to be more flexible and to appreciate b-roll if it helps to tell a good story.

Little will also use still images or a graphic as a backdrop for his FaceTime interviews just to give them more visual interest.

However, none of the above will help if you’re pitching TV reporters a story that doesn’t matter.

4. Telling Stories That Matter

News media have always looked to share stories that matter with their viewers and readers, but coronavirus is an unprecedented public health disaster. What mattered to people in 2019 is not the same as what matters to them in 2020.

Little says stories that matter are “Stories that impact more than your client’s bottom line or three people.”

It’s time to demonstrate your best news judgment and find the story angle that will make a difference in people’s lives. How does what you or your client do help people stay safe, cope, connect or feel better?

Most pitches that he receives these days don’t meet that criteria, and he says he is literally deleting dozens of emails every day without reading them because, by the first line, it’s clear they’re not pitches that matter.

5. Build Your Media Relationships

Media relationships matter more now than ever.

“The best PR representatives play favorites. Instead of casting a wide net and hoping to get two or three crappy stories on the air, the smart PR reps feed the story to the one reporter they know will do it and do it well,” Little says.

“I won’t stick my neck out for someone if I know they invited every station in town as well. What would your client rather have? Three short crappy stories or one really good story?”

Craft your pitches with each TV reporter or journalist in mind. As a professional, you need to have their backs and make sure the spokespeople, video chats or story angles you propose meet or exceed their expectations!

INFOGRAPHIC: How to Earn Media Coverage in Major News Outlets

6. Focus on Quality Information

The same goes for the information you provide. Have your facts straight. In this environment of conflicting or shifting public health information, news reporters are especially sensitive to the quality of the information that they are bringing the public. So, savvy media relations professionals need to take the same care when pitching TV reporters.

Jeff Zevely, feature reporter with San Diego’s CBS News 8 team, who says journalists are working as hard and focused as ever to deliver trusted information to people.

“I feel dealing with facts provides peace of mind to viewers and a message that we will make it through these challenging times.”

Zevely recalls being told by a veteran news anchor that there are only a few stories in a reporter’s lifetime that define a news organization. He says, “COVID-19 is one of those stories. Our viewers and web readers are relying on us for information and storytelling more than ever.”

7. Remember We’re All In This Together

There’s a lot of pressure on the media: smaller newsrooms, tighter budgets and now even fewer resources as reporters report from home.

Little and Zevely have all the safety and broadcasting equipment they need to do their jobs safely and solo. But that doesn’t mean they don’t miss their friends or worry for the safety of their own loved ones.

Little says he’s meticulous about cleaning his gear, car and himself and careful to keep his distance from other people while telling his stories. But he also says he misses his coworkers, a lot.

“I’m a hugger and I haven’t hugged a friend in almost three weeks.”

8 Hilarious Reasons for a Love-Hate Relationship With HARO

Chihuahua hating HARO

By Julie Wright —President
Twitter: @juliewright

Journalists love to poke fun at PR pros for pitching nutty story ideas or tone-deaf newsjacking attempts. However, turnabout is fair play. On the PR side, we definitely get our fair share of wacky requests from the media. And the Help A Reporter Out (HARO) email service is where the weirdest of those cluster and multiply. If you’ve not recently found yourself hating HARO, we’re here to fix that.

How often have you scanned an email from HARO and nearly spit out your coffee? We love HARO for matchmaking our client partners with journalists on deadline, but we also hate HARO for the volume of bizarre requests.

If you’re reading this and don’t know what HARO is, it’s a thrice-daily email service with 800,000 subscribers that connects journalists on deadline – 55,000 of them – with expert sources to provide information and insights for their stories.

HARO queries range from the hyper-specific and obscure (Ex. “Everything To Know About Garcinia Cambogia”) to the overly vague catch-all (Ex. “Blockchain and business”).

So, courtesy of HARO, here’s a little PR industry payback for our media friends. And, to our PR friends, here is a little levity to brighten your crazed day:

1. “Seeking experts re: car sex”


Wow, no one told me that this was a career option in high school!

The actual query is for a sex therapist or educator who can answer the big questions about car sex like, “What should someone know before attempting car sex? Why try it? How can someone have car sex safely (from the perspectives of car safety, considerations around public sex and consent and legality, and considerations around safer sex)?”

Turns out we all may have under-thought this subject! Although it did ask the question that is on everyone’s minds: “And what positions work best?”

2. “Pets & Their Fave TV Shows/Vets & Animal Shows”


“We’re looking to talk to pet owners or vets about animals and their favorite TV shows. Does your dog love the news? Is your cat crazy for quiz shows?”

To all of the dogs and cats reading this right now, bark or meow once if you prefer Jeopardy or  twice for Wheel of Fortune. The query goes on to ask for vets to respond with the TV shows they recommend for sick pets. Here’s a PSA: If your vet ever recommends a TV show for your sick pet, it’s time to find a new vet!

3. “Looking to talk to men about how they asked their wives/partners for open marriages”

The blog Fatherly is asking for a friend.

 4. “Experts Reveal Why The Pull-Out Method Is So Dangerous”


First of all, “reveal” – really? If this outlet’s readers don’t know the answer, do they, in fact, read?

5. “Huamana Analysts Needed”

Bro, I don’t think that’s how you spell Humana. Glad you’re seeking expert help though.

I’m guessing that this query generated a few responses from the Hawaiian islands. And Humana’s PR department missed out on this one if they were filtering queries by keyword and didn’t include misspellings of their company name.

6. “A brief explanation of the difference between brick and wood when buying or building a home”


If your client is a big bad wolf or a little pig, here’s your 15 minutes! Wolves and pigs have two very different takes on brick versus wood.  So, I hope that the writer got both sides. A little concerning that straw was left out as I’m sure that today’s pigs and wolves know straw bale construction is the future.

7. “The Science of Sexy Step Moms”


Is there any? (I’m referring to science, not sexy stepmoms.)

8. “The Brilliant Reason You Should Wrap Your Car Key In Tin Foil”

It’s almost like the reporter has already written the headline before researching their story. Apparently, aluminum foil can prevent thieves from copying your key-fob signal to gain entry to your car. So, that is clearly the “brilliant” reason to undergo this hassle against a very low-risk situation. But, there could be more nuance?

Tin foil is a flashy accessory? Tin foil keeps your key germ free? Taking your key out of the foil to unlock your car will give you that Christmas morning vibe six times a day?

AND A BONUS! 9. “How-to story ideas”

“Looking for fun story ideas for a how-to section: Are you a source for an educational how-to story?”

This is what an editor or reporter does when they have completely run out of ideas: asks the HARO community to do their job.

Here’s four ideas for this writer: See queries #1 and #3 above and ask for an expert on HARO.

Send your ridiculous HARO queries to me via Twitter (@juliewright) and I’ll publish another roundup of doozies.

By the way, if you haven’t been using HARO but would like to get started, I recommend checking out this tip sheet before you start responding: https://www.cision.com/us/resources/tip-sheets/haro-practices

P.S. It took extra effort to keep this blog post #SFW and PG-13. Apparently, HARO is the Tinder of expert source apps.

P.S.S. Even Tinder posted a query to HARO recently–ironically, the Tinder writer was seeking an asexual person for an interview (there being none on Tinder, I guess.)


Three Surprising B2B PR Tips to Secure Media Attention

By Chancelor Shay —Director, B2B & Infrastructure Development
Twitter: @chanceshay

If you’re not on the cutting edge of artificial intelligence-controlled robotics or have the fastest supercomputer in the world, it’s probably hard to get journalists and media outlets charged up to talk about your B2B brand. Brands that struggle with this typically fall into the trap of believing every editor is interested in their niche position in the B2B world and talk (or type) ad nauseam about what it is they do.

Nobody cares.

Even if it’s a trade publication and the writer covers your vertical, they still don’t care.

What they do care about is writing cool stories their readers will dig and doing their job well. Your PR success depends on your ability to help them achieve that goal.

Here are three counterintuitive steps to secure more coverage while wasting less time.

The best stories aren’t about your brand

Most media outlets don’t like to dedicate an entire piece to one vendor. They’re job is to tell stories that will be as interesting as possible to the greatest number of readers. Unless your brand is already a household name, this means that the most impactful story pitch will tell your customer’s story. The outlet’s readers can relate to your customer because they are just like them. A story about how your customer did something awesome (and how you played a role in it) stands a better chance at being picked up than raving about how innovative your product/service is or its features and benefits.

Don’t talk about your product/service

If you’re proud or excited about what your company does, go tell your mother. If a journalist was already interested in your brand, they’d already have reached out to you instead of being on the receiving end of your pitch. Instead, develop a pitch to address what your customers (a.k.a. the outlet’s readers) are dealing with. Speak in terms of their pain points. The odds are that that your company isn’t nearly as cool as the ecosystem in which you operate. So, bring in as many different perspectives and folds to the story as you can so that the reporter or writer can envision an engaging story with a story arc that shares real-world challenges and not just free publicity for your brand.

Be the oil can, not a squeaky wheel

Any PR pro will tell you that if you ask 10 different journalists how they like to be pitched, you’ll get 10 different answers. However, one thing is for sure – PR pros’ jobs are to make the journalist’s job easier. This means helping the journalist write about something they’re interested in covering rather than trying to convince them that they should write about something interesting to your brand. Do you want to be the kid crying on the playground for attention or do you want to be the kid who brought the Pokémon cards to recess? When you approach pitching the media from a service mindset and ask yourself, “how can what I or my client know help them reach their goals” (see tip #1), you’ll become a resource to reporters. You’ll have to start by reaching out to the writer and in two sentences summarizing their recent coverage and writing style (to validate you know who they are and what they do) and then offer up a C-Suite executive in your company who has a reputation and can help the writer make sense of topics they’re interested in. After they use your spokesperson for the first time, then you can start pitching them your own story ideas.

If you think you’re ready for the big leagues, check out our post on How to Earn Media Coverage in Major News Outlets.

SUBSCRIBE: Get our quick, timely communications ideas and insights each month.

(W)right On Communications won a Silver Bulldog Award for Best B2B Product Launch for our work on this campaign. Read the full case study written by the Bulldog Reporter for in-depth tips.

How to Earn Media Coverage in Major News Outlets

Earn media coverage in major news outlets

The Wall Street Journal is the world’s most influential business news outlet. For subscribers of our agency newsletter, The Strategist, we recently put together this helpful infographic on how to earn media coverage in major news outlets like The Wall Street Journal.

It outlines 12 steps to catch the WSJ’s attention for your business, nonprofit or client. These steps can be followed to earn media coverage in any major news outlet:

This approach is how we earned coverage in the WSJ for our client, EVS, as well as a retweet by Arianna Huffington to her 3 million Twitter followers and an inquiry from a Fortune 500 technology partner. Such is the power of The Wall Street Journal.

SUBSCRIBE: Get our quick, timely communications ideas and insights each month.

(W)right On Communications won a Silver Bulldog Award for Best B2B Product Launch for our work on this campaign. Read the full case study written by the Bulldog Reporter for in-depth tips.

5 Questions for Journalism Expert Lynn Walsh on Trusting News

Lynn Walsh Trusting News project

By Julie Wright —President
Twitter: @juliewright

The public’s lack of trust in news sources is not just a problem for journalists. It is clearly one for public relations professionals and the organizations that they represent too.

To understand what got us to this low point in trusting news and what might be done to restore trust in the media and information, I spoke to Lynn Walsh of the Trusting News project.Lynn Walsh Trusting News

Lynn spent the first 10 years of her career as an investigative journalist and most recently oversaw the NBC San Diego investigative team. She served as president of the Society of Professional Journalists last year regularly speaking on and advocating for journalism ethics and press freedoms. She teaches journalism at Point Loma Nazarene University and recently, took on her new role at Trusting News. It perfectly blends her journalism and digital media experience with her passion for a healthy, thriving free press.

As project manager for the Trusting News project, Lynn works with newsrooms and journalism schools in the U.S. and Canada to conduct news engagement experiments and research leading to new best practices intended to restore trust between news media and news consumers.

Alongside project director and Poynter Institute adjunct faculty member, Joy Mayer, Lynn studies how people decide news is credible and shares that knowledge and actionable strategies that newsrooms can implement. Currently, close to 30 newsrooms are trialing these new best practices with plans to roll out the strategies that show the most promise for change.

Trusting News is funded by the Reynolds Journalism Institute, the Knight Foundation and Democracy Fund.

  1. What is the mission of the Trusting News project?

Our goal is to rebuild trust between journalists and the public and we do that by working with newsrooms helping them be transparent in their reporting and encouraging engagement with their readers, listeners and viewers.

  1. What is driving the lack of trust in media?

The responsibility is on both sides. Both news media and news consumers have been struggling to adapt to the digital news environment and how it changed the relationship between journalists and the public.

Lynn Walsh Trusting News projectIn the past, consumers of news didn’t really have that many options. They got the newspaper from their doorstep or turned on their TV, and the news was delivered to them. Now, they also discover news digitally when they’re searching online or using social media.

News has also become less of a one-way delivery system. People can now respond to your content.

News organizations didn’t do a good enough job of adapting to the changes created by this new digital format. They continued to deliver the news in the format they always have.

For instance, we didn’t do a good job of labeling the content when we moved it over to the digital space—is this a news article, a blog post or an opinion piece? People have no way of telling what kind of content they are discovering digitally and how to filter it.

The public also does not understand what journalist do, how they do their jobs and how the news media works. That means that people aren’t prepared and equipped to decide whether what they’re seeing is news or someone’s opinion.

  1. What can the media do about that?

I think from my personal experience dealing with members of the public, it’s about having conversations, explaining why we chose to cover a story or interview an individual on a subject matter, why we blurred a photo or didn’t use someone’s name. Explain the decisions we make every day.

Labeling is key here. If you have a story that’s an opinion story, don’t call it an op-ed since people don’t know what that is. Label it as opinion. Be clear about labels and make sure that label follows that story online and when shared on social media. Be clear about labels for the people we as broadcast journalists put on air too—not just calling everyone an expert. For instance, what is an analyst? Are they a reporter or giving an opinion?

We need to be honest with our viewers when we are putting someone on who is just sharing an opinion.

  1. How do you see this trust issue impacting professional communicators like PR people and spokespeople?

Unfortunately, where we really are now and have been for a year or more is that people just don’t trust what they’re hearing and reading. It doesn’t just apply when it’s coming from a news organization. It can be coming from a press release on someone’s website or a blog post. People are questioning everything and searching to find information that can disprove it. So, the trust issue doesn’t just apply to news organizations. It applies to all information.

People don’t trust facts anymore. People think that facts can be debated. It extends beyond news.

  1. How do you see things five years from now? Better or worse?

I really hope that five years from now I’m not having to teach people how to build trust, be transparent and build credibility with their audience. I hope we begin to be open about how we are telling our stories, why we chose this person to talk to and not be hesitant to talk to people who are critical of our reporting. If we didn’t include something in a story, I hope that we’d be comfortable going back and telling that side of the story or incorporating that missing viewpoint.

This is a new kind of storytelling. It’s things we’ve always done but just in a more transparent way.

To get there, we need some of the biggest news organizations to buy in. When you look at 24-hour news organizations, this isn’t happening. We need CNN and Fox News to start labeling stories and their experts and pundits properly. Hopefully, they will do a better job of separating for the public what is news content and what is opinion.

So far, that’s not happening.


B2B Integrated Marketing: 5 Step Foolproof Guide

B2B Integrated Marketing

By Chance Shay Director of B2B and Infrastructure Development

Twitter: @ChanceShay 

Marketing communications in silos doesn’t work. If your PR efforts aren’t aligned with your content marketing and your digital marketing is on a different frequency, you’re setting yourself up for a not-so-fun conversation with your CMO. In a time when the average attention span is eight seconds and where humans are producing the same amount of data in two days as was generated in all of human existence leading up to 2003, it’s easy to see why each individual marcomm channel is less effective in isolation.

But with a challenge comes an opportunity. By syncing up all of their efforts, marketers are able to make the overall impact of marcomm efforts far greater than their individual sums. This is integrated marketing.

Integrated marketing communications (IMC) is the only marketing strategy that is effective in 2017. It optimizes the communication of a consistent message from a brand to stakeholders by integrating communication channels and harnessing the benefits of each channel, which amplifies their impact beyond what they could achieve individually.

The entertainment industry has done this for years. At Comic Con, you’ll see the same message about a new movie being promoted on advertisements (paid), conveyed during interviews and editorial stories (earned), used on social media (shared) and said during the panel discussion with the movie’s stars (owned).

B2B brands have to take this same approach, but with a few key changes. To help, we’ve put together a foolproof, five-step guide to help any B2B brand nail its integrated marketing plan.

1) Define the business objective

An obvious first step, but it’s essential that the integrated marketing flow from the brand’s overall business objective. Whether stealing market share or creating a new category, the brand’s big picture goal will drive everything from strategy to KPIs and execution.

2) Know thy audience

More than just understanding the type of business that’s a good fit for your service or product (i.e. a SMB in cleantech with $10-25 million in revenue), a brand must have a rich, granular picture of who is most likely to purchase their product and why. The “why” is important for establishing and framing the unique selling proposition for any good or service, but the “who” is the most important for structuring your IMC plan. Is your customer likely to be innovative or more risk adverse? What’s important to your customer in how they operate their business and the culture they create internally? Is a top tier trade outlet or a general news daily with huge name cachet more influential to them? For example, if the decision makers for your prospective customers are millennials, you’ll want to know they are 247% more likely to be influenced by blogs or social networking sites than older generations. That impacts strategy in a meaningful way, so get as holistic a view of your audience(s) as possible.

3) Set SMART communications goals that support the business objective

Like with most sound strategies, for IMC planning you must start with the end goal and work backward to develop a plan for how to get there. What is it – in a specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time dimensioned way – that you’re wanting the plan to achieve. Is it to drive a 20 percent increase in free trial sign-ups? Is it to grow website traffic for key landing pages by 30 percent? At the end of the day, for B2B brands it all boils down to driving revenue. The marcomm component is meant to move new business prospects down the marketing funnel from being brand aware to being brand loyal. Setting SMART goals and KPIs for your integrated efforts will help ensure you’re on the right track.

4) Select your weapons of choice

Not all platforms and mediums are right for every brand. In some industries, trade shows have a higher demonstrated ROI than weekly vlogs on YouTube. For others, the best way to reach decision makers is on LinkedIn and not through content marketing. The first question to ask when determining where to focus marcomm resources is, “Where are my customers spending their time and how are they influenced?” Almost as important is asking yourself, “What channels allow me to showcase my brand’s strengths?” If your brand offers something innovative but a bit dense and niche, then Instagram as a platform would be challenging to generate traction. Instead, speaking opportunities at conferences where you (or your CMO) have more time to explain nuances would be more impactful.

Remember, you have all the PESO (paid, earned, shared, and owned) channels at your disposal.

For Paid, consider if your audience is actively looking for your solution or if you have to be proactive in helping them realize they need your product or service. When thinking of earned coverage, would contributed by-lined articles support your communications goals or would an analyst evaluation be better? On Shared channels, selecting the platform must flow from determining the strategy for how social media will help reach the communications goal – whether by creating a community, showcasing thought leadership, engaging in the digital conversations prospective customers are having or otherwise.

Part of how IMC for B2B brands is different than for consumer brands is how owned content is leveraged. Owned content should be valuable to your customers and your customers’ customers. Your customers want to know you “get them,” but they also appreciate content that reinforces their value. The ROI is clear when you consider that B2B companies that blogged 11+ times per month had almost 3X more traffic than those blogging 0-1 times per month. If your content is targeted, that increase in traffic means an increase in leads. Of course, that’s just one data set, but wouldn’t you like 300% of the traffic you’re getting now?

5) Use an umbrella to make it rain

Traditionally, an umbrella blocks the rain from hitting you. But for B2B brands, you need an umbrella that covers all of your IMC to bring in new business and make it rain. The umbrella, of course, is an overarching theme or idea that ties all of your marcomm efforts together. It could be owning a position or using some fun, quirky euphemism to convey the unique selling proposition of your product or reinforce a brand identity. This doesn’t mean that all efforts across all platforms need to look exactly the same. In fact, solid marcomm utilizes the most impactful features of each platform, but the umbrella campaign theme or concept keeps everything cohesive and consistent. When deciding an umbrella theme, think big picture about how it would translate across each of your decided platforms and whether it syncs with your strategy for how you intend to utilize each channel.

With audiences diversifying and a fragmented media landscape, there are no silver bullets for achieving communications goals. To be effective in moving the bottom line needle, communications – from advertising to PR, from social media to content marketing – need to be intentional in both strategy and timing. Check out a few ideas here, then follow these steps and you’ll be on your way to crushing the IMC plan and impressing your CMO.