In today’s digital age, when most of us walk around with multiple screens in our bags or pockets, it’s easy to forget about the screen that started it all – the television in your living room.
But you shouldn’t. Even in 2017 television news is still the most widely used news platform in America.
According to the Pew Research Center, 57 percent of adults in the United States still get their daily news from TV and within that percentage group, local TV prevails. Forty six percent of TV-watchers turn to their local stations for news, while around 30 percent turn to network and cable stations.
It’s no wonder so many organizations want TV news stories done about them. While commercials can cost hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars per second, news coverage is free. Further, when a news station highlights an organization’s good work it receives third party credibility that cannot be achieved through advertisements alone.
TV is a great place for your organization’s story to reach a large audience – but you need to be strategic to get a station to do your story.
Here are our top five tips for tailoring your story for TV and making the most of your time in front of the camera.
Highlight The Visual
What does a TV story have that doesn’t translate in print? The Visual – capital T, capital V (see what I did there?). What picture will viewers see on their screens at home? What about this story makes it better seen than read or heard? What elements are available to the news crew covering the story? Always consider the visuals when pitching a story for television news. And if you come up short on live visuals, offer the media still photos or statistics that can be made into graphics.
Find Your News Hook
The competition for a journalist’s time and attention is fierce. Be sure to emphasize the relevance, timeliness, and importance of your story to their news audience. In other words, always be able to answer the inevitable question, “So What?”
Understand the Time Frame
The days of a 24-hour news cycle are long gone. Now, journalists follow breaking news stories on a minute-by-minute basis, and the cameras try to keep up. Keep this timing in mind, and understand that television stations can never guarantee coverage of a story or event. In fact, most stations won’t tell you whether or not they can cover something until the day of, or even the hours leading up to, an event.
Due to this immediate time frame and the limited resources on which newsrooms operate, the more flexible you can be, the better. If it is not a live event, give multiple times for a news crew to film your story, and have multiple people available to speak on camera. Additionally, make sure your story or event is set at an accessible location. Crews do not like to waste time looking for parking. The easier they can get there, the more likely a news crew is likely to cover it!
Keep It Short and Sweet
A TV news story can take many forms – but most pieces run between 15 seconds and a minute and a half, depending on the format. The average sound bite used in local news is between eight and 12 seconds. Prepare whoever is speaking in front of the camera ahead of time. That person needs to be able to make their point clearly and concisely. Understand that whatever is said may be cut and edited for time and clarity.
Finally, when your organization receives TV news coverage, maximize the opportunity. Make sure to promote the piece on your website and social media channels, and ask the station for a copy of the story you can share with fellow employees, customers, and funders.
Be appreciative. Thank the reporter and crew who put your story on the air.
The better you understand how television news media works, the better chance you have of securing coverage for your organization, both now and in the future.