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How To Pitch Stories To The Media

| By Meg McDonald

I worked in the TV news industry for almost 11 years, and covered just about every subject out there—from twisted murders that were worthy of a “Dateline” special, to weather damage where families lost everything they had, to historic job announcements, to (my personal favorite) feel-good stories that left you with a full heart.

While all of them were different, they had one thing in common: they made folks stop and watch, because those viewers felt the stories affected them in some small way.

How To Pitch Stories to Broadcast mediaReporters get dozens of emails a day with stories they should cover. The key to pitching any idea to broadcast media is making people care. My favorite journalism school professor at UNC used to constantly use the acronym WIFM, or, “What’s In It For Me?” You must give people a reason to watch, and the more they can relate to and are affected by it, the better your chance is that a reporter is going to show up to cover it.

The first – and most common WIFM – is how things affect people financially. Reporters can’t stand news releases with story pitches that are straight-up ads. The goal is to make your big idea stand out by showing the media how their viewers can benefit. Numbers and evidence help with this. Has your company recently grown because of demand? Is there a hiring surge or is it expanding and adding locations? How is it helping people? These are all things to include in your news release. Growth tends to resonate with people. A bad headline in your news release might read something like: “Company builds homes, moves to the area.” Change that around to say, “Homebuilder expanding business, hiring for 50 new jobs in the area.”

The second WIFM is how your story affects viewers emotionally. How are folks going to react to it? I always heard – from both viewers I ran into in the field, and even my own husband—“there’s never anything positive on the news anymore.” This isn’t true. Reporters LOVE to tell great stories, but often aren’t told about them because people automatically think the news media doesn’t cover things that truly matter. If you know of someone or something going on that’ll make people smile or have a meaningful impact, share it. If you’re a non-profit and have a compelling story to tell about why you need help, share it. A great example of this is an organization in Winston-Salem, Homes for Our Heroes. Its goal is to get homeless vets off the streets. The non-profit purchased six historic houses that were run-down and badly needed work. Over the course of several months (often on weekends), groups from local businesses and corporations – which included realtors, bankers and home improvement stores – all came together to donate the manpower and building supplies to renovate the homes. I’ll never forget doing a story with the first vet who moved in. His interview was equally as compelling as those from the community members who all pitched in to give him a home. Not only was it great publicity for the organization—but the businesses that helped participate as well. It’s often stories like this that go viral. Why? Because, in some small way, I believe it helps restore our faith in humanity.

At Reuben Rink, we create public relations that get results for a wide range of clients, spanning diverse industries. We’d love to put that experience to use for you. Give us a call when you’d like to start spreading some news!

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