Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Spokesmodel Speaks

I was asked to speak to a retreat for board members of a nationally-recognized philanthropic organization. That's shocking in and of itself, is it not? The topic was, "How do we get the media in our local markets to give us more coverage about the good work we do?"
It still amazes me the lack of awareness that people...smart, successful people...have about how editorial decisions are made.
Some people still believe that they can call the general manager of a TV station, because he's a golf buddy or whatever, and "place" a story on the news. "Yeah, I called Ed and told him we needed something on the news about xyz." THEY THINK THAT WORKS! I suppose somehwere along the way, it must have. Some misguided GM started commanding producers or a news director to do some story that didn't fairly and ethically make its way through the editorial process. Of course, that chills me to the bone, but it doesn't surprise me.
What did throw me for a loss was these directors' lack of awareness of the importance of their organization's web page in the modern media world. I told them I had gone to their website to research my presenation and I found it alarmingly lacking in aesthetics and content. At first they seemed confused. Then, they started paying attention. Many of them were dutifully taking notes.
Pontification here is not appropriate, but they got a lesson in fundamentals: Strike up relationships with reporters, not their bosses. The reporters pitch stories. Return their calls personally and in a timely fashion. Do not refer them to corporate headquarters. Make it easy for them to do the story. Cooperate, help them with some research and don't throw up any obstacles.
The presentation lasted about a half-hour. I'm no consultant. Maybe I should be. The feedback I got was positive. This organization deserves positive publicity. Maybe its leaders got a nudge in the right direction.

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Anonymous said...

We all form opinions based on experience, which is why I respectfully offer a differing opinion regarding your post about how to get a story on tv or in the newspaper. Several times, my ND or GM has come to me with a story idea passed along by a friend, golfing buddy, drinking buddy, etc...In short, if the boss wants a story, a story gets done. Many times when as ND at two different station groups, my GM came to me with something which had very, very little--if any--news value. However, if he/she wanted the story, he/she got the story.

I agree with what you said about needing to make it as easy as possible for the reporter to do his/her job, return their phone call, etc...But if the head of that group knows the GM/ND at the local tv station, or the editor at the paper, it's much easier--and productive--for him/her to call his/her friend and "let them know about something". It might not be "right" or "fair", but life isn't. And I think that is now just part of the way we do business.

Darrell said...

Well, there yo go. Confiration that it works. I'm not so naive to think it's not happening every day. That doesn't make it right.
I actually made the point to the group that calling the boss will work, but it undermines any relatioinship they're attempting to build with a news professional.
I recall saying something like, "calling someone's boss's boss's boss may be effective, but it's no way to make friends. To be successful consistently in pitching stories to reporters, they have to know they can trust you."
So, fundamentally we do not disagree.

Workman said...

What's sad is how easy journalists can be co-opted. Just return our phone calls and keep us in the loop on important stuff.

If you do that, you'll get more press coverage, and it will be more positive.

It ought not be that way, but that's how it is.

Anonymous said...

As a person who has been on both sides of the pitch, I agree the best method is to go straight to the person who is writing the story. This allows you to begin a relationship with the reporter. Once you've gained their trust, it becomes much easier to get positive coverage on a consistent basis. Having a GM urge a reporter to cover an event will typically result in a 15 second blip at the end of the newscast or brief write up on page 6-D. Good to hear you're still giving sound advice.


Darrell said...

It's good to know that Mr. Clark is alive and well. Please write. I don't know where you are.