Broadcast TV coverage can be one of the most impactful tools in our PR toolbox. In addition to the intrinsic excitement surrounding the opportunity “to be on TV,” broadcast TV holds value in its extraordinary reach. Segments may air in multiple time slots and are often repurposed to be shared on the outlet’s website, and further are linked on social media. The opportunity for a visual representation of your mission, vision, and impact is incredibly valuable, not to mention the final, highly-produced video piece would be worth the equivalent of thousands of dollars in advertising production and spending. Suffice to say, broadcast TV is always worth the effort in a PR strategy.
Why is TV an important medium for sharing your message?
Broadcast TV can be one of the most powerful mediums for increasing awareness and visibility, both to your existing audience and to new audiences. If you want to shout your message from the rooftop, and by all means you should, broadcast provides that rooftop. As with any type of press coverage, broadcast allows the opportunity to share expertise, your good work, your voice, and authority in your area of focus. If you need to educate the public on your cause, and you have amazing visuals to pull at heartstrings and open purse strings, then TV coverage should be high on your list for PR focus. Although print and online media are valuable mediums for storytelling, TV has the added advantage of providing the opportunity to put a face to a name, a cause, or a problem that you are working to solve.
The key elements of broadcast pitching
In order to successfully secure a broadcast segment, your big news must contain several key elements. First, determine whether your news is applicable to local or national news stations. Does the reach of your story, campaign, or milestone go beyond your city, region, or state? If you are announcing something so impactful that it is important for the entire country to know, then you just might have a national news story. If your audience and your news are centered in and around your own community, then you’ll want to stick with your local broadcast TV affiliates. In order for your pitch to be successful, make sure it includes the following elements:
1. Visuals. Where a print story can be focused on interviews and storytelling, TV must have a visual element. For example, if you’ve launched a new group therapy center for working moms, you need to secure the visual elements first. Will any of your clients be willing to tell their stories on camera? Will a camera crew be able to film part of the group session? What other visual elements can you offer to help tell the story?
Whereas print uses words to convey the message and emotions, TV relies on the camera to do a significant portion of the storytelling. Ideally, the visuals should be eye-catching and exciting or be able to help tell the story of who you are serving, and why they are in need.
2. Timeliness. TV producers are looking for the “breaking news” angle, and what is happening RIGHT NOW. Producers will always bump the evergreen story to make room for something more timely. To ensure timeliness, one strategy is to tie your story to a particular date or observance. Another strategy is to localize a buzzy national story. For example, COVID-19 vaccines are all over the national news at the moment, so if you are a local organization that is reducing barriers for elderly people in your community to get the vaccine, then you have a local tie to a big national story. If you can provide the visual of grandma on her way to get a shot in her arm, then you’re heading towards broadcast TV gold.
3. Do the work for them. TV producers move at lightning speed. If you pitch a story in the morning, you must be prepared to be on camera at 4 p.m. that same afternoon. Because things happen so fast with TV, it is helpful to be proactive in your pitch and spell out all the elements of the story for the producer. If you do the majority of the work for them, then saying yes to your segment becomes easy. In your pitch you’ll want to provide the following elements:
- Explain the story, why it is important, why it needs to be shared today. This is the point where timeliness is SO important. Be able to outline the who, what, where, why, and when of your story so that the producer has a hard time passing on your pitch.
- Detail what visuals will be available. What can the camera crew capture that will make for interesting visuals? Are there employees filling bags for the new food pantry as part of your quarterly CSR initiative? Is there a live puppy adoption happening at 4 p.m.?
- Who can they interview? Make sure you have a representative from your organization ready and available to talk about the event or happening on camera. If you can provide a constituent from the population you serve to talk about their personal story or perspective, or how your event is supporting them, even better!
- Include information on how your executive director or CEO can provide localized expertise and perspective on a national story. How do they see this national news affecting your local community? What do people in your community need to know, and how can your executive shed light on this topic?
- Provide images and b-roll. Producers often tease an upcoming segment throughout the broadcast to keep viewers interested. Ideally, you’ll want to provide photos, logos, and b-roll footage which represents your event or organization that the producer can weave into the voiceover segments of the story or use as teaser footage.
Plan for that ‘Lights, Camera, Action’ moment
Remember that your work and mission have value. People need to hear about what you are doing and why it is important. Broadcast TV is an incredibly valuable medium for organizations, so much so that we recommend clients always look for ways to create visuals and those “TV moments” that yield an opportunity to get on the news. When planning annual fundraisers, openings of new locations, or other major events, always be thinking about ways to include elements that could make a good visual for TV. As a purpose-driven organization, you already have a leg-up as your work checks the “feel-good”/”valuable” boxes. To secure the segment, you just need to find a way to be camera-ready.
Diana Crawford is a seasoned public relations consultant with more than 15 years of agency, consulting, and in-house experience. She joined Orapin in 2013 and manages account services and client communications strategy development. She has worked across a variety of sectors and has expertise with professional services, food/alcohol, health and wellness, lifestyle, sports, education, tech, and non-profit industries.