As philosophical conundrums go, this doesn’t rise to the level of “if a tree falls in the forest, and no one hears it, did it happen?”
In the PR industry, getting one’s client on television for millions to see is a brass-ring achievement—unless, of course, that client is being led away in handcuffs.
So, it was with great interest last night that I listened to award-winning journalist Brian Thompson, New Jersey reporter for NBC 4 New York since 1998, explain how to land your client on his news show. You might remember Brian for his 28-hours-straight, hair-blown reports on Hurricane Sandy at the Jersey shore. He tweeted the first memorable image of the roller coaster in the sea, and he won the national Edward R. Murrow award for his coverage.
To get on television, Brian said in a speech last night to the NJ Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America in Tinton Falls, first consider your competition: political corruption, government bungling, hurricanes, blizzards, home invasions, and lurid crimes.
These things have to be covered. That’s the nature of news. A lot of it is bad.
And it doesn’t leave much room for the good stuff.
And that is why, Brian told us, he turns down 95% of the pitches he receives from PR “pros.” I put pros in quotes because many of those pitches are off-pitch. Is (and this is my choice of an example) Brian going to cover the peanut-butter-pretzel fad in China? NOT.
So, here’s the deal. When Brian isn’t knee deep in hurricanes, blizzards and bridge scandals, “I’m looking for that human touch, that personal story” to round out the news, he says. And more often than not, the scene of these softer human stories will be a local business. This means, dear PR pros, that most of you are halfway to television land.
Now heed the rest of Brian’s tips:
Real People, Compelling Stories: Viewers want stories about real people like them! So, your pitch should have at its heart a compelling story about real people saving other people, overcoming the odds to save their own lives or otherwise engaged in a pulsing human drama.
Pictures: “We have to have pictures,” says Brian, not to mention the potential for action news video.
Do Your Research: Watch the NBC 4 NY news shows. Understand what kind of news they like to run and on which of their morning, afternoon or evening news programs. (Conduct this research online if you can’t get NBC 4 NY on your telly.)
Know Your Subject: If you are pitching a particular subject, know your material inside out. You should be able to answer any question Brian throws at you in responding to a pitch.
Like Him: Like Brian on Facebook and visit his Facebook page to see what he’s doing. He posts 3-4 times a day.
It’s a good way to get to know the man, and maybe—in the distant future in a far-flung galaxy—to get your client on television.