Newsrooms are busy places. They function on a lot of caffeine and adrenaline. So it's easy for reporters and producers to hit the delete button when a press release or story pitch breaks the following rules:
1. Not knowing your audience.
It is crucial to research the show you want to contact. Then, answer several questions before you start writing your pitch:
Who is the audience I am trying to reach? Does the show I'm pitching to serve that demographic? Think age, gender, and interests.
What types of stories does the show usually air? This can be lifestyle, feature, hard or soft news, human interest, entertainment or educational. Figure out where your brand or business fits.
Where is the show broadcasted? Does it air locally, throughout the province or across the country?
Once you get a sense of the show’s audience, genre, and reach, you can tailor your pitch more effectively.
2. Being ordinary.
Reporters have one question in mind when they hear a story pitch--SO WHAT? They are looking for a "hook" that will entice their viewers to keep on watching.
That means your story has to have an interesting angle. It has to contain an element that is unique and not previously reported.
Say you own a downtown hair salon and you are hosting a charity event on the weekend. There are two ways you can approach your pitch:
Example pitch 1:
Your salon is giving free haircuts in exchange for donations for a local charity. (So what? What is so special about the salon? Why that specific charity?)
Example pitch 2:
Your salon is giving free haircuts in exchange for donations for a local book club for underprivileged children you once belonged to.
Pitch two is the way to go. Don't leave out crucial details that will make the story more interesting and provokes viewers to feel, think and react.
3. Burying the headline.
Once you have discovered what is unique about your story, don’t bury it at the bottom of the pitch or press release.
If you have confirmed that several local celebrities will be in attendance at your weekend charity event -- make sure that information is front and centre in the headline and not an afterthought.
Remember, you only have a few seconds to catch a reporter or producer's attention.
4. Getting the name of the station, program, reporter, or producer incorrect.
There is no doubt the Canadian media industry has evolved over the last 15 years and with multiply mergers it can be a little confusing. But do your research so you get the basics correct.
I've lost track of the number of times viewers mixed up the station I was broadcasting on. Or better yet, they have confused me with the other lovely dark haired reporters in Toronto.