We’ve had the pleasure of working with Celena Fine, a Vice President at TierOne Partners, on multiple occasions. Her webinar, How to Pitch Broadcast Media: Secrets from a Former TV Journalist, remains one of our most popular. If you don’t have an hour to spare to watch the entire thing, you’re in luck—we’ve assembled some of the highlights for you.
How to create an effective pitch
Before she was a Vice President at TierOne Partners, Celena spent 11 years at Boston’s NBC and FOX affiliates as a TV journalist. Which means Celena has seen thousands of pitches and she knows what does and doesn’t work. From her experience, here’s what works:
Keep it concise. A pitch that’s too long is overwhelming for a busy producer. Always lead with your hook: Why will they care? What’s relevant about your story? What’s timely? Celena says the point of a pitch is to get initial interest. The extra details will be shared in the back and forth afterwards.
Keep it conversational. Celena says it’s important to write your pitch in present tense. This will make it easier on the writers who have to crank out the stories. If you do the work for them, they may even be able to directly copy and paste from your email.
Keep out the kitsch. Celena says “cute” phrases and alliteration are unnecessary and distracting. Use your subject line to clearly state the main thing the producer will care about.
Who you should be pitching and who you shouldn’t
Sending your pitch to the wrong person has consequences: it’s either never seen, or it’s seen and only serves to irritate the person. Obviously, you don’t want either. Celena broke down who you should and shouldn’t pitch in local and network news.
The first thing to know is that local news does not require as much lead time. Unless you’re pitching to special projects, you should be able to send your first email a few days in advance of your story.
- Production assistants
- Assistant news directors, news directors, and directors
- Reporters and investigative reporters
- Photographers (but Celena says it is a good idea to become friends with the photographer sent to your event/story as it may help you get the footage you want)
- Assignment editors (Celena calls them “the nucleus” and advises phone follow ups when pitching)
- Digital producers (if they can’t cover your story on TV, they might be able to on the website)
- Special projects (your story will need to align with their niche)
- Executive producers
- Planning editors
- Assignment managers
- Managing editors
Unlike local news, network news does require longer lead time, so make sure you allow for that in your planning.
The same rules for who and who not to pitch in local news apply, with the following additions:
- Line producers (they don’t have a huge say in what will make air)
- Field producers (not often in the station)
- Segment/booking producers
When to pitch broadcast media
Timeliness: People in broadcast don’t have “normal” 9-5 schedules. So, if you’re pitching a story that takes place late afternoon, pitch in the afternoon to the people who will be there. If you’re pitching a story that takes place in the morning, pitch early in the morning.
Newsjacking: Celena says that “TV follows print”, which means if you see something in print that is tangentially related to your client, jump on it.
Planning meetings: All of the decision makers gather in a room twice a day to go through the daybook and nightbooks, which are put together by planning editors/assignment editors starting the day before. You want to make sure you end up in these books, says Celena, as every story that’s out there for consideration makes it into them.
How to pitch broadcast media
Celena says that the number of times you need to pitch broadcast might seem pushy, but the reminders work. She recommends that you email your story a few days in advance, the night before, and the morning of. “It can seem like we’re harassing the stations, but that’s not the case at all,” says Celena. “The reality is, there is just so much going on that you need to remind them of your story so that it stays top of mind. It’s not annoying unless they reach out and say, ‘We’ve got it, you don’t have to email anymore.’”
With TV, phone follow-ups are crucial. “Because as your email is coming in, so probably are three to five other ones that push yours down from the top of the inbox and then it’s quickly gone from the mind of the person you’re pitching,” says Celena.
With broadcast, you are at the mercy of many things outside of your control. Just because a photographer comes to your event and takes footage, doesn’t mean it will air. There are any number of reasons your story may get bumped—breaking news, a story running a few seconds over. (That’s when having the Digital Producer’s contact in your back pocket comes in handy!)
If everything does go according to plan and your story airs, use a media monitoring service to find and secure the coverage. Do not reach out to the station to ask for a copy of the coverage—they do not have the time.
For the rest of Celena’s insights, including her tactics for following up by phone, emailing the assignment desk, and a list of essential broadcast terms, watch her full presentation for free. You can also check out the article Celena wrote for Bulldog Reporter.