Five Ways to Think Like a News Producer
I don’t really know how to think like a radio or television producer, but each time I communicate with these hardworking people I try as hard as I can to imagine what their workdays are like. In posts to come I’m hoping to feature some Q&As with some of my favorite editors and producers (and if you have specific questions, please send them to me and I’ll try to include them). In the meantime, I’m sort of guessing but sort of not. It’s not that I’m totally beholden to these folks, but I do try to exhibit a certain deference for the deadlines they’re under, the many challenges they face, and an assumption that they probably wish they had more time to sift through all the many, many emails they receive from publicists hawking their products, services and experts.
So here’s what I’ve learned so far. If you have something to add, please, please offer a comment for our fellow PR people. That’s the only way we can really navigate the continuing learning curve that makes this work so interesting and gratifying:
1. Ask for their time. When I make a pitch by phone I first ask if the person has about 30 or 45 seconds. That gives them an opportunity to be gracious by either saying, “Not really, I’m on a deadline. Can you call tomorrow?” or “Sure, go ahead.”
2. Ask what else they’re looking for. It’s really hard to get a producer on the phone, so when you do leverage the time you have. If they’re not interested in the pitch, find out what they are working on and then if you have something to contribute, tell them so and follow up with an email.
3. Don’t pitch off topic. That’s a waste of time for everyone (I know I’ve said this before, but it probably can’t be stated enough). This means you have to do your research and of course that takes time. But it’s just like pitching a magazine editor. You have to be familiar with the content.
4. Learn about the producer. Many program web sites, especially public radio sites, include bios of the staff. Take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with the person you’re pitching. Maybe you have something in common with them. Even if you don’t, mentioning something in their bio can help you stand apart from all the other people vying for their attention.
5. Acknowledge their good intentions. Sure, producers can be frustrating, but when someone does you a good turn, like forwards your email pitch to a colleague who might have some interest in your pitch, express your appreciation. A simple thank-you email is usually sufficient.