Getting Positive Publicity
By Jeff Crilley
The fax machine in our newsroom is constantly spitting out news releases. And most of the time, I read what's being pitched and wonder if anyone involved bothered to watch the news before pressing ‘send’.
I remember in the days following Hurricane Katrina, seeing hundreds of news releases that had absolutely nothing to do with the disaster. I wanted to pick up the phone, call the poor PR person who was faxing us and shout "Turn on your TV set".
On the other hand, there are countless days each year when it's so slow in newsrooms across the country, we journalists are lighting candles to the news gods praying for something interesting to happen. If you want to crank up your PR machine, you need to know that the news biz is actually no different than every other business. It's based on supply and demand.
On a busy day, when the supply of news is plentiful, there may not be much of a demand for your story. But pitch the same story to us on a ‘slow’ news day and we are all over it.
Holidays are great times to try and get your story covered. As a general rule, anytime government offices are closed, it's a slow news day and the media will be anxious to cover anything that even resembles a story. TV, radio and newspapers still have to put out the news, whether there's anything newsworthy going on or not.
The week between Christmas and New Year is notorious for being the slowest of the year. Time and time again, stories that would never make the news during a normal news cycle suddenly become interesting when no one else is feeding us news.
On the other hand, every once in a while the media will get a hold of a big story and you'll have a feeding frenzy. Last year's hurricanes, the start of the war in Iraq and the September 11th attacks are all examples of the kind of mega-stories I'm talking about. When we're in one of these kinds of feeding frenzies, TV and radio stations will devote entire newscasts to the story and the newspaper will publish a special section on one event. It seems no other story even matters.
When the media is totally focused on one subject, don't even waste your time with another story. It won't make air. Each station is trying to out ‘team coverage’ the other and before you know it, there's no news time left for anything else. They'll even cancel sports and weather if a story becomes big enough.
I remember when I was doing nothing but soft news, sometimes people would call with a great story and I'd have to tell them to call back when things returned to normal. If you see these news typhoons coming, you have only two choices really. You can wait until it blows over and then pitch your story or you can take advantage of the media madness.
For instance, it doesn't matter how poorly your team did last year, on opening day every baseball team in the country is World Series-bound. Hope springs eternal, right? Well, a disc jockey in Dallas, USA named Alan Kabel knew he couldn't fight the media attention being given to opening day for the Texas Rangers. So he came up with an angle to complement the coverage and suddenly it was whole new ball game.
Alan sent out a news release announcing that in a show of support for the Rangers, he and his morning show co-host would be sitting in every seat in the ballpark on the day before opening day. Pure publicity stunt, right? You bet it was. But you know what? It was so timely no one could pass it up. To use a baseball analogy, Alan hit a grand slam. Every TV station in town showed up to cover his stunt.
Alan knew the TV folks would be out at the ballpark that day anyway doing a preview of opening day and all of them would be looking for an angle. It was either get video of Alan going from seat-to-seat in the 50-thousand seat ballpark or interview the head groundskeeper on field conditions.
He had the right story at the right time. If he had tried it on opening day, the game itself would have overshadowed his stunt. Two days before - he would have been too early. The day after opening day? Too late. When it comes to news, timing is truly everything.
About The Author:
Jeff Crilley is an Emmy Award winning TV reporter who speaks at no charge on the subject of media relations. He's the author of the first PR book from a working journalist's point of view. For more info, please visit: