When it comes to earning media coverage and building brand awareness – television features, newspaper print mentions, and radio spots are all great options. But, in the digital PR world, if you don’t have an accompanying link, the media coverage has no SEO benefit for your business.
So, how do you pitch a story to the media to get a link and reap its benefits? It’s all about who you know, and who you pitch in local news.
We’ll explain how television, newspaper, and radio stations are structured. We’ll overcome the knowledge gap between digital marketing and local news, where the folks who seem like the right fit to pitch may actually only work for traditional PR. You’ll learn who you should send your media pitch to in order to earn coverage and links. By understanding a newsroom’s structure, you’ll learn how to get local media coverage and earn linking digital coverage. This will also help prevent you from pitching the wrong staff member and receiving a snarky reply.
Let’s face it, when it comes to local news outreach, you’re only as successful as the inbox you land in.
Like any media outlet, a television station has a very clear hierarchy. Many viewers assume the on-air personalities (the anchors they see at the desk) are the sole writers and creators, but the television newsroom structure is much deeper than that. Behind the scenes, there is a whole team in charge of writing scripts and posting web stories.
There’s also an added dimension to the style of local news. Morning shows are typically more open to “softer” and light-hearted content, while evening shows usually focus on harder-hitting stories. Understanding which news audience your content is best suited for will help you know where to send your press release.
Before deciding who to pitch, ask yourself what type of coverage you’re looking to earn for your content.
|POSITION||DESCRIPTION||SHOULD YOU PITCH THEM?|
|General Manager||Supervises management and operational tasks. Final decision maker in regards to programming No. They’re too high up and have little influence or and production.||No. They’re too high up and have little influence or interest in web stories.|
|News Director||Oversees the organizational structure and coordinates news-gathering efforts.||No. They occasionally write stories in smaller markets, but their main job is coordinating management, schedules, and monitoring breaking news.|
|Assistant News Director||Manages other daily newsroom operations, including story selection and on-air graphics.||Yes. Oftentimes they send press releases to the entire staff. When that happens, your content could get picked up by a reporter with the right angle.|
|Executive Producer||Manages other daily newsroom operations, including story selection and on-air graphics.||Yes, for TV coverage (ie. an anchor-read script).|
No, if you’re only interested in a web story.
|News Anchor||The face of a newsroom. Responsibilities include reading pre-written stories on-air, conducting interviews, and providing commentary.||No. They rarely write web stories or enterprise their own reports.|
|Assignment Desk Editors||Helps manage daily newsroom operations including organizing and prioritizing press releases and events, as well as managing the newsroom email account.||Yes. Oftentimes they send press releases to the entire staff and manage the newsroom email. They can help get your content into the right hands, whether that’s a reporter or web producer.|
|Producer||The producer is responsible for writing and “stacking” the show (determining the order of stories). Producers make editorial decisions about what to run, when to run it, and what segments air during their show.||Yes, if the content would make for a fun “talker” or feature without a reporter lead. However, it’s unclear whether this would lead to any digital coverage and may be difficult to confirm/track that a story ran.|
No, if the content seems more web-digital friendly or irrelevant to the specific market.
|Reporter||Relays stories from the field, complete with on-camera interviews.||Yes, if the content could be covered by a reporter as their story for the day. Someone should be available for interview, the story should be relevant, and data should be explorable|
No, if none of the above applies.
|Web Producer||Maintains a newsroom’s website, blogs, and social media by collaborating with anchors, reporters, and producers.||Yes. Their job is to go through emails, press releases, newswires, and more to find content to fill the website.|
Many businesses want screen time. If that is your goal, pitching content to producers, reporters, and assignment desk editors is the way to go. Assignment desk editors typically help manage daily newsroom operations, coordinate coverage, prioritize press releases, and handle the general newsroom email account. If you are unsure who to contact at a station, pitching the newsroom email is a good option.
However, if you’re looking for the added SEO boost (backlink) your best bet is to go straight to the web team.
The 24/7 news cycle created a voracious appetite for local content on tv stations’ social media channels and websites. In local TV newsrooms, the web team can be made up of web producers and digital reporters. As the need for constant content online continues to grow, so does the number of digital reporters. Many TV stations are now hiring journalists to produce content solely for the station’s website and social media channels.
With the right pitch and newsworthy content, web producers and digital reporters can provide the type of tv digital coverage you’re looking for.
Local newspapers have a similar hierarchy to television stations, though titles vary. In this case, you don’t have to go to the top to get coverage. Instead, reporters are largely responsible for pitching their own stories. Newspapers’ websites, however, are full of additional content designed specifically for the internet.
Before you start pitching, think about the type of coverage you want. In an increasingly digital age, you may not want to aim for a reporter to cover your story for the print edition of the newspaper. Instead, you may want to reach for an online mention or social media shoutout.
If you’re looking for a full print feature, determine which department your content best fits. Once that’s done, the best way is to pitch to a department editor or individual reporter. But if you’re looking for a web article, you’ll want to pitch the editor, individual reporter, or web producer.
|POSITION||DESCRIPTION||SHOULD YOU PITCH THEM FOR LINK BUILDING?|
|Publisher||Oversees the editorial and business operations of the newspaper.||No. They’re too high up and don’t write stories.|
|Editor-in-Chief||Oversees editorial content and budget. At smaller papers, the editor and publisher are the same.||No. They oversee the newsroom but don’t typically write or assign stories.|
|Managing Editor||In charge of the day-to-day production of the newspaper as well as a team of editors.||No. They work directly with editors to maintain a story schedule, but don’t assign individual stories.|
|Editor||Responsible for a team of reporters in individual departments, including business, sports, and city.||Yes, but only if the content could be covered by a reporter as their story for the day. Someone should be available for an interview, the story should be relevant, and data should be explorable.|
|News Reporter||Gathers information and reports from the field. There are two types of reporters: beat (same subject and location) and general assignment (covers any assigned story).||Yes, but only if the content could be covered by a reporter as their story for the day. Someone should be available for an interview, the story should be relevant, and the data should be explorable.|
|Staff Writer||Provides standard content from an office.||Yes. They are directly involved in story creation.|
|Web Producer||Works with a digital team to create web content in order to keep a newspaper’s website up-to-date.||Yes. Their job is to go through emails, press releases, newswires, and more to find content to fill the website.|
|Chief Copy Editor||Oversees copy desk, which ensures stories are written according to newspaper and publisher standards.||No. They don’t write web stories and are responsible for overseeing editors.|
|Copy Editor||Trained to edit stories so they’re written correctly and conform to grammar rules and styles. Also assists in writing headlines and paper production.||No. They edit stories.|
Don’t waste your time going to the top of the food chain. Those at the top of the newspaper newsroom hierarchy don’t have the bandwidth or desire to read your pitches.
Editors, however, especially if their title has “digital” in it, tend to be the most amenable to content. Many mid-size and larger newspapers have official web teams and local digital news hubs. Providing web producers with content that is both click and social media-friendly can be an easy way to earn digital media coverage.
Learning how to pitch broadcast media is crucial. As you would when pitching other local publications, pitch carefully – pitching the wrong person lends itself to the potential of the pitch getting lost.
|POSITION||DESCRIPTION||SHOULD YOU PITCH THEM FOR LINK BUILDING?|
|Station Manager||In charge of day-to-day operations, including budget, hiring, and training.||No. They’re too high up and unlikely to handle on-air content or web articles.|
|Operations Manager||Coordinates, schedules, and promotes on-air programming while working with on-air personalities.||Yes. For smaller stations, this title often shares responsibilities with the program director, including website content and on-air interviews.|
|Program Director||Creates and plans daily broadcast schedules, including locating news, music, and entertainment. Often works with the same staff each day.||Yes. Less substantial (fun) content makes for a quick “talker” (mentioned in casual conversation between programs or songs), and can end up on the website if you ask nicely.|
|On-Air Personality (DJ)||Plays music, take requests, and tells news stories along with providing updates on news, weather, and traffic. In addition, conducts interviews and interacts with listeners.||Yes. Fun content that catches their eyes can lead to full segments, requests for interviews, and complimentary web stories to links to more information.|
|Web Producer||Works closely with the program director to provide digital support for radio programming.||Yes. If the station is big enough to have a web producer, ALWAYS pitch them. Sometimes your content may not get mentioned on-air, but it could be exactly what they need to fill their social media feeds and website.|
If you’re looking for an on-air mention or interview for your client, email the program director or on-air personality. If you’d like to secure a web story from a radio station, pitch the web producer.
It’s important to note, depending on the size of the radio station, on-air personalities may also post web stories. Before sending a pitch, check out the station’s website and see if their on-air personalities author their own web stories.
Earning media coverage with major TV publications, including TV, radio, and newspaper, doesn’t have to be difficult – you just have to know how to pitch a news story and then identify who to pitch. Remember, most often, it’s the assignment desk or web team. Getting in front of those individuals will not only provide SEO benefits, but you’ll also build relationships to lean on in the future when your content is newsworthy and relevant.
Now that we’ve covered who to pitch in local media, how should you go about pitching a news story? Crafting an attention-grabbing and newsworthy subject line and pitch is key to getting press coverage.
In our experience, using an interesting statistic/data point from the campaign in your subject line is one of the best ways to get a journalist to open your email.
Once the journalist is reading your email, you want to make sure to convey newsworthiness. The journalist should be able to see why your content is relevant to them and their audience. The news industry is fast-paced and journalists do not have time to read lengthy, irrelevant pitches, or those bogged down with data.
Make your pitch clear, concise, and compelling. Here’s an example of a pitch tailored to writers in a specific city:
Now that you know who you’re going to pitch and how you’re going to do it, you want to make sure the timing is right. Your pitch should land in a journalist’s inbox at the right time of day and at the right point in the news cycle.
For instance, you’re likely to get more coverage pitching your content to a journalist early in the week, and for most outlets, early in the day.
Additionally, it’s important to be aware of current events and watch for breaking news. Many local newsrooms have limited staff and story assignments can change at the drop of a hat.
If you want to pitch your Super Bowl story to journalists in Chicago, but there was a major snowstorm yesterday, you may want to consider waiting a day or two. Journalists will likely be tied up covering the major story and your pitch can get lost in their inbox.
On the same note, if you notice breaking news that one of your clients or campaigns could provide additional context to, that would be a great time to reach out to journalists covering the story.
Crafting a top-notch pitch is no easy feat, and with the ever-changing world of local news and digital media… digital PR needs to keep up. Our tips are tried and true, but don’t be afraid to mix things up and try something new!