It’s always good to build hype about an event, and what better way to do it than by gleaning some authentic media coverage? The key is identifying the perfect time to pitch the event. One that’s early enough to avoid, “I wish I’d had known about it sooner,” and late enough the reporter won’t have time to forget about it. Although this is difficult, it’s doable.
Here’s how I hit the “sweet spot” when it comes to getting an event covered.
First, I post the event to TV, radio and website event calendars. Why? Because this is something that can’t really be too far in advance. Not only do event calendars help alert the public about an event, reporters also use them when scrambling for a story last-minute.
Second, I hit up the news desks of all of the stations I’m targeting. These are essentially community inboxes manned by one person at a time – sometimes an actual reporter or producer. Sometimes your email will get deleted before it’s opened, but every now and again, you get lucky and the “gatekeeper” manning the desk passes your pitch to a more relevant reporter, or files it away with a stamp of approval.
I already have most affiliates’ news desk emails and a pretty good idea of which reporter would be interested in my event. But if I didn’t, I would ask the person at the news desk which reporter would cover the type of event I’m promoting and file their name (and contact info if they’ll give it up) away so I can pitch to them when the event draws nearer.
Two to three weeks pre-event, I may send a teaser email to a reporter to feel them out for interest. If I get a reply, great! If not, I’m not too worried about it, because either way, one week pre-event, all reporters are getting a call from me. If they said they are interested in covering the event, I might tell them I’m just checking to see if any details have been finalized or if there is anything I can do to facilitate an interview, etc. If I never heard from them, I will pitch the event to them in a way that ties to their beat and (since the event is right around the corner at this time) ask for details if they say they will cover it. Details might include: when it will be taped and when the piece will air.
Asking for/acquiring details is a sure way to identify if the reporter is truly serious about covering the event. If the details aren’t readily available, all is not lost. By asking for details, if the reporter has the least inkling to cover the event, they should make an effort to assign photographers and pencil it in on the calendar.
Last-minute pitching is also effective when it happens right before a reporter’s deadline for delivering weekend stories to their producer. A reporter is likely to add it to their list of things to pitch because the more story ideas they have, the better they look in the eyes of their producer(s).