When is the Best Time Pitch to Reporters & Producers
Television and newspaper reporters face different deadlines, which means one size does not fit all when it comes to pitching. To be a successful publicist, you must learn to approach journalists at strategic hours of the day to increase your chances for coverage. You never want to reach or pitch a reporter when he is under deadline because his attention won’t be focused on you. Just like life, you will have more success holding a person’s attention when he or she is not facing multiple distractions, like a screaming editor or ringing phone.
The journalist’s deadlines will vary by beat and city but generally speaking, every television reporter that files a daily story is under deadline three hours before the newscast. Some specialty reporters, like consumer, health or investigative correspondents, don’t file reports every day so they could be approached during the newscast, but you must be certain they are not under deadline.
Specialty Producers and Reporters
Most publicists know the unwritten rule is to never pitch a story during a newscast, but for many specialty reporters and producers this can be the best time to reach them. As a specialty producer in the consumer and health units, I rarely received calls during our newscast even though it was probably the best time to reach me. I wasn’t under deadline, I was unwinding for the day, and I was receptive to hearing new pitches at that time.
Many newspaper reporters with a daily beat must file their stories between 5pm and 7pm, so you should avoid calling them after 3pm. Reporters who file weekly stories in the Arts and Leisure, Sunday Business or similar sections typically face a Thursday deadline. You should avoid calling these reporters on the day of their deadlines. If you are uncertain of a reporter’s deadline, do a Google search with his byline name to see how often his stories appear in the newspaper. If his stories run every week you can safely assume he works under a weekly deadline. When in doubt over a deadline, just ask.
Morning News Meetings
In many cases a reporter’s daily deadline can work in your favor, giving you a better opportunity to shape the media’s coverage. If there is an issue brewing in the morning news that impacts your business and you have uncovered a sidebar element, you should pitch it to the reporter by 8am. Every newsroom has a morning meeting where reporters pitch stories for the day. These meetings typically start at 9am although in some cities they can start as early as 8:30am. If you are pitching a daily story that is tied to a daily news topic, you must pitch the reporter before that morning meeting. The morning meeting is one of the rare times when reporters can get instant approval for a story idea since all of the news managers are hearing the pitch at the same time.
If you aren’t getting responses from your pitches, you might want to reconsider your entire approach. Perhaps your story idea isn’t focused or you are pitching to the wrong reporters. Maybe you haven’t properly identified why your story is newsworthy. Take the time to re-evaluate your press release to see if you are communicating the essence of your story.
And remember, public relations is not advertising. No newspaper or television station wants to do an advertisement or commercial for a product or service. So make sure you have communicated in your pitch how your story will benefit the public. There is a home for every story. It’s just a matter of finding the proper niche and tailoring the pitch directly for that niche.
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Mark Macias is a former Executive Producer with WNBC and Senior Producer with WCBS. He’s also the author of the communications book, Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media. Macias now consults small and large businesses on how to get publicity. You can read more on his firm at MaciasPR.