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Tips from TV on Producing Good PR

May 2, 2013

Today’s post is courtesy of Julie Cunningham, an account executive at Rhino Public Relations. Questions or comments? Julie can be reached at Julie@rhinopr.com or on Twitter @RhinoPR_Julie.

TV news set“Video, video, video!” With his five o’clock shadow creeping up on six o’clock and the hours ticking down on the 5 p.m. newscast, one of Boston’s legendary assignment desk editors (read: air traffic controllers of the TV newsroom) would sing that refrain almost daily when I was just an impressionable young intern. No wonder then, that it stayed with me during my nearly 10 years as a TV news producer in the Boston market – and still informs some of my decisions today in PR.

In its simplest form, the repetition was meant to drive home the point that great video is often what drives the story in TV news.

It’s why TV journalists fight to bear witness to unfolding stories overseas, but also the car crashes and stubborn fires around the corner. They know that with a stunning piece of video, their story will reach a much wider audience.

But tucked into the spaces between those three words, is this message: Find the compelling piece, the hook, the “nut graph” as print reporters like to call it, or the timeliness of a news item or press release – and if not – expect only mediocre results.

The best newscasts, the strongest press releases, the catchiest e-mail blasts, and the pithiest pitches isolate those items, and once again, drive the story forward.

Many in SMPS know that in the A/E/C industry, it’s rare that projects come with video or even glossy photos. But if you break ground for a big-name client, improve a well-known product, or you can offer expert analysis on a trend or story in the news, that producer or print reporter is more likely to call you back or keep his or her finger off the delete button.

If it still seems like a stretch, consider the fact that in the last year, many of Rhino PR’s A/E/C clients have earned media placements for exactly those reasons. Margulies Perruzzi Architects garnered coverage for its work designing Nitsch Engineering’s new LEED Gold office. The New York Times took notice of Acentech’s work to improve the acoustics of dishwashers and other household items like hairdryers and vacuum cleaners. And with construction booming in Boston, the president of GEI Consultants offered his in-depth views on the value of geotechnical engineering in a wide-ranging interview on NECN-TV.

Now that you’re armed with your company’s best story ideas, you can also consider the following.

Know the reporter’s beat

Read those weekly features or DVR nightly business shows and local newscasts. You wouldn’t pitch a cooking segment to Brian Williams, so don’t pitch your engineering project to the morning show on your local news station.

Watch the clock

There is a saying in the newsroom: “we’re always on deadline.” But the real crunch time for TV producers (and all journalists for that matter) is typically right before the deadline. Ideally, you would want to e-mail or call an evening producer at the start of his or her shift, which is typically early afternoon. For morning shows, midday or afternoon phone calls are also a good bet, once the producer is out of the control room. Better yet, send a brief note to ask the reporter or producer when they might have time to talk. Or – you can always hire a great PR firm to do the talking for you.

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