In a previous blog, I looked at why TV news coverage is still a vital tool for communicators and campaigners in 2021, related to the training I’ve developed for NUJ Training Wales.
But how do you go about securing that precious airtime for your charity or non-profit organisation? While no approach is guaranteed to get you coverage, there are some tactics which will improve your chances…
1. Think like a reporter
Try and put yourself in the journalist’s shoes. TV news staff work in a high-stress, fast moving environment and they’re bombarded by press releases and updates. Your pitch needs to stand out from the crowd, be easy to grasp, and relevant or interesting to their audience.
2. Pitch a simple headline
Remember that TV news items usually only last a few minutes. While the story will contain several voices and facts, it will usually revolve one simple message. So before selling your story, decide what you want to get across, and how that can best work for the journalist. Does it, for example, pass Janet Murray’s ‘BBC homepage test’?
3. Provide great visuals
This may sound too obvious, but when I was a TV reporter, we would often receive calls or press releases about stories that would be boring or difficult to convey in pictures. So think about how a reporter would fill a 2-3 minute item in an interesting way. For example, if your story is is about a medical breakthrough, set up an opportunity to film scientists at work in the lab, provide computer graphics, or perhaps most importantly…
4. Set up case studies
Human interest is central to TV news – how the issue in question relates to ordinary people and the emotions that go with it. While there’s a place for expert voices, no-one wants to just watch ‘experts’ or managers in suits. So try and provide the reporter with interesting people to show – and talk about -how the story matters to their lives.
5. Line up a strong spokesperson
Even with great case studies, reporters usually want someone from your organisation to put the story in context and provide an expert voice. This is often just to get a 10-20 second ‘soundbite’, but sometimes they’ll want an extended or live interview too. Make sure your spokesperson is properly briefed – and consider what media training they’ve had or might need.
6. Include some ‘killer facts’
Putting forward some ‘killer’ facts and statistics can really add weight to your story and hammer the message home. A sprinkling of these in your press release, conversations and interviews will help you sell in the story and ensure viewers appreciate the scale or importance of the issue. Be careful though – too many facts will leave reporters and the audience confused.
7. Timing is crucial
You’ll probably have an idea when you’d like to get the coverage you want, but also think about what might work for a TV producer. Is your story relevant to other topical issues or a forthcoming event? Be prepared to be flexible – a reporter might prepare a story but not be able to run it for a while because of a busy news schedule. Providing opportunities to pre-film, and offering exclusivity, can help your reporter to help you.
8. Be bilingual
Providing information, case studies and spokespeople in both Welsh and English will improve your chances of coverage and help reach a wider audience. Reporters will usually be supportive when it comes to interviewing those who aren’t yet fully fluent in Welsh.
Securing TV coverage for your report or campaign means thinking like a reporter, and making their life easier. Provide journalists with a simple, interesting, visual story with plenty of emotion and human interest will go a long way towards getting your message across to a big audience.
If you’re looking for further advice, training or support with securing TV news coverage, please get in touch.