The Local Broadcast Chase

At the Washington Auto Show last week, I finally accepted the fact that local broadcast is by far the most challenging, complicated and exhausting area of media relations.  My day began with the intention to bring media to EcoCAR’s press conference and make sure their announcements went smoothly. It ended with very sore feet. In this era of Blackberry-toting print reporters that, if interested in your pitch, can engage in lightning fast email exchanges, I was dealing with a different beast. The kind you have to chase down on foot – local television crews. 

For most clients, regional broadcast coverage can appear to be low-hanging fruit and when executed successfully (not the Ron Burgundy variety) is very rewarding.  After spending nearly 6 years in local television news, I know this is a half-truth.  While most local reporters and producers will give you the time of day, navigating through the disorganized web of assignment managers, planning editors and segment producers can make one’s head spin.  Since swapping broadcast for PR, I’ve realized even an alumni can’t always penetrate this disorganized system. They play by their own rules.

I always have to remind myself that local newsrooms are crazy.  They have smaller staffs than national or cable broadcast outlets, don’t get pitched as much and don’t plan ahead the way larger operations do.  Reporters often shoot 1 or 2 stories a day and are responsible for 3 or 4 live shots a day, which can leave minimal time for actually gathering stories.  This makes it tough to know who to pitch and when – who cares about my story and do they have time to tell it?

Back to the floor of the Auto Show.  Just when you start to feel good about your pitching efforts and double-checking all the details, you remember: local broadcast loves to stand you up.  In this case, after extensive courting, the lines of local broadcast communication appeared to be just as disconnected as I feared and it came down to face-to-face selling.  

While hunting down reporters on the Show floor and persuading them to cover EcoCAR was an odd way to punctuate this week of pitching, I later realized it forced me into the purest form of what we do.  I was just one person talking to another about something exciting, telling a story.  In the end, this exhausting and frustrating process can (and did) earn great coverage, and as I was pleasantly surprised to find out, can get us back to basics.