Four Pitching Tips from an Emmy-Award Winning TV ProducerSeptember 12, 2016
DCI recently had the honor of hosting a Q&A session with Kimberly Schwandt, an Emmy-Award winning television producer who was a member of the White House press corps and Senior White House Producer for Fox News Channel in Washington, D.C.
With more than 15 years of broadcast journalism experience, Schwandt offered some great insight on pitching stories to the national media and a look behind the scenes at broadcast reporting.
As you look to elevate your community’s profile nationally, consider these four takeaways:
Know what makes a good story
Is your city’s downtown on the rise, is your region’s biggest cheerleader a local entrepreneur, or is cutting-edge research happening in your community? These are often the kinds of stories economic developers want to tell, but it can be challenging for communities to set themselves apart and break through the clutter.
According to Schwandt, good stories have one or more of the following components:
- Something unexpected or a shock factor – and the numbers to back it up
- A person or personality
- Tension, two sides, or a battle
- Immediate relevance or importance; newsworthiness
- The answer to a question or a curiosity about the world
- Useful or helpful information
While this might seem obvious, the best way to really understand the “news formula” is to read national newspapers and websites, and watch nightly, cable and local news to identify themes and understand what trends are making headlines.
Take your pitch from good to great
With reporters receiving hundreds of emails a day, it can be difficult to make your pitch stand out. Schwandt offered this advice:
- Be clear, concise and catchy. You should be able to describe your story in just one sentence – or even a few words.
- Use the “mom/best friend” test. Would your mom or best friend understand your story? Think about how you would describe your idea in plain English.
- Think about “why should I care?” Is the story newsy, topical or unusual? If the reporter can’t find a reason to care, they will not be able to find one for their readers.
- Use a catchy subject line, bullet points and bold to make your email quick and easy to read.
Capitalize on holidays and weekends
“Weekend morning shows are starving for new content,” Schwandt said. She stressed that reporters are still responsible for producing stories on holidays and weekends and are often eager for content and story ideas during this time. Off-hour and overnight shows, such as ABC’s World News Now or CBS’ 24/7 digital streaming news network CBSN, are always looking for new content.
Tailor for television
The average news piece is only one minute and 30 seconds. “It doesn’t matter if the topic is Iraq, a new quarterback, or political scandal, TV stories are SHORT,” Schwandt said.
Visuals and sound are critical for any TV story. If a story does not seem immediately visual, think outside the box to offer a visual angle. For example, does your story impact a school or a certain area of town? In terms of the audio element, having a spokesperson ready to go on camera is a huge plus for broadcast reporters.
Have you used any of these suggestions before? Are there any you would add? Leave a comment below or tweet us @aboutdci and let us know your thoughts.