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The 12 “Tips” of Christmas

10 min read
December 22, 2015


Your Holiday gift guide to a successful year of earned media in 2016

I enjoy media relations; good old-fashioned publicity.

It’s challenging yet very rewarding successfully pitching a feature story, arranging for an interview, positioning a spokesperson as a thought leader to address a particular topic currently in the news, or issuing an advisory that generates earned media for one of our clients or The Martin Group.

Throughout my career as a former broadcast journalist-turned public relations practitioner, I have been privileged to work with a number of outstanding editors and reporters, many of whom I am pleased – and honored – to call friends.

So what’s the secret to garnering media coverage? It certainly helps to have great clients with interesting stories to tell.

In the spirit of the season, here are 12 tips for working more effectively with the media in 2016, as told to me by members of the media themselves:

  1. “Time is the most important element to us – whether it’s breaking news or a feel-good story. Reporters are under the gun to get their story on the air. Social media has added a new urgency to our attention to ‘time.’ These days management wants it on Twitter and Facebook right away. Then on the web…and finally written and edited for air. Chop! Chop! Also, we may spend between five and 30 minutes interviewing you, but only extract a small clip or sound bite to actually air. Don’t feel this was wasted time. We use the information that was shared as background and sometimes include lengthier interviews – perhaps even the entire interview – on our website.” – Jacquie Walker, News Anchor, WIVB-TV
  1. “Understand, as we do, that you’re working for the people in your community as well as the folks paying you. What information do they need? What’s most important at a particular time? What intrigues and surprises them? What improves their lives and decision-making? Who can best deliver the information (because most reporters want to deliver it first)? And can you deliver a pitch and accept ‘no’ or ‘maybe some other time’ for an answer, with the understanding there will be many opportunities in this news-hungry region?” – Scott Scanlon, Refresh Editor, The Buffalo News
  1. “Think like a journalist and keep in mind the following two acronyms – PSS = pitch strong stories – and WIL = would I listen?” – Brian Meyer, News Director, WBFO Radio
  1. “First of all, people should understand most reporters are working on several stories at the same time, especially now, in the instant news/social media world. When we call we hope to get quick responses. Calling back days after our initial call rarely helps. Don’t BS us – we can see right through it. If you don’t have the answer, be honest and tell us. Honesty is always the best policy.” – Jim Fink, Reporter, Buffalo Business First
  1. “The ‘media’ is not one giant, faceless entity. Just like you would with any other client, take the time to find out what our needs are. Radio, TV and print/digital all have different needs and deadlines. For TV, visuals are key; for radio, it’s sound, etc. Finding out what those needs are and tailoring your pitch to them could make the difference between getting your event covered or not.” – Maria Sisti, Assignment Editor, WGRZ-TV
  1. “We’re looking for honest, straightforward answers to our questions. We’re also looking for information that will be helpful to our readers. Whenever possible, give us some information that is out of the ordinary; something that is not widely known by the public – the kind of information that grabs a reader and pulls him or her into the story.” – Dan Herbeck, Senior Reporter/Writer, The Buffalo News
  1. “Be open with us. If a story can’t happen, tell us why. There’s nothing more frustrating than not hearing anything back from a spokesperson. Email and texting have raised reporters’ expectations. If you’re pitching a story, reach out to us individually, usually through email. We’re busy too. Follow-up emails are never bad either.” – Jordan Williams, Co-Anchor/Reporter, Wake Up!, WIVB-TV
  1. “Know your topic well and make sure you have the right person or persons to conduct the interview. Make sure to answer questions as best you can. Keep responses concise and to the point. Stay on topic and don’t wander off. Responses that go off on tangents won’t make the final interview or story cut. In one-on-one interviews, let the reporter lead the way; don’t try to steer it into other topics to avoid answering any difficult or controversial questions.” – Eileen Buckley, Senior Reporter, WBFO-FM
  1. “Both taking a look at the big picture and paying attention to detail are important when reaching out to the media. For TV journalists, we are not only looking to cover newsworthy events, but we’re looking for stories that are visually appealing as well. While a press conference with speakers at a podium is informational, it’s not necessarily visual. If you can provide us with information as well as the elements we need for a story, that’s an ideal situation for us to gather everything we need in a timely manner. As an assignment editor, it’s frustrating to receive a press release that lacks basic information. We rely on public relations professionals to tell us who, what, where, when and most importantly why we should cover an event. Keep it clear, concise and accurate.” – Kaitlyn Munro, Assignment Editor, TWC News 
  1. “A good spokesperson should be well informed and passionate. Viewers will find those who are just reciting speaking points to be impersonal and fake. A good interview provides more than just the content of a press release. Emotion, personal anecdotes and a conversational story go a very long way. And remember – TV is visual. We need photos and video to go alongside the interview.” – Melissa Holmes Skurski, Co-anchor, Daybreak, WGRZ-TV
  1. “Make me care. The Internet is constantly coming at us with new information; give me something that rises above the din. Compassion and curiosity are what drive journalism, bring me into that circle and make full use of the current technology to capture images and voices to make that story a living, breathing thing. Looking ahead to 2016, we’ll continue covering education and politics for sure, and the Western New York fallout and reaction to recent Albany corruption investigations. Aaron Lowinger, Managing Editor, The Public
  1. “As a news organization, our focus is primarily on covering the news of the day in an original way that impacts our audience. If a public relations professional is able to provide us with a “news hook” to any story – that is, give us a way to expand on the day’s events, or put us in touch with a person who can give us a unique perspective – that’s ideal.  We don’t just want to cover events or press conferences; we want to show the impact they will have on the community and the story *behind them.  Additionally, if a spectacular story comes from any of the clients you represent – perhaps a way of giving back, or an amazing tale that gets you talking – pitch it to us. All too often wonderful stories go untold, because no one thinks to pass them along.” Katie Morse, Multi-Media Journalist and Anchor, WKBW-TV

Happy Holidays everybody!

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