All posts tagged: messaging

How to pitch news outlets to cover your action

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To pitch a reporter or assignment editor about an action or event you’re planning is to call them up&#151typically after sending them a news release&#151and attempt to persuade them that they should come out (or send a reporter) and cover what you’re doing. A good pitch call is at least as important as sending a good news release. With a call, unlike a news release, you are creating a memory of a human-to-human interaction. It’s your opportunity to make a strong impression so that when the reporter or editor goes into their morning or afternoon meeting&#151where they’re deciding which stories to cover&#151they are more likely to advocate for covering your event.

Reporters and editors are busy people. They often sound as if they are unhappy that you reached them by phone, and sometimes you’ll be lucky to get a full minute of their time. An effective pitch call makes a strong impression within the first five seconds, and makes at least the start of a compelling case within ten seconds.

For comparison, here’s an example of an ineffective pitch call:

Hi. My name is [name]. I’m calling about an event that we’re organizing. The event will be here in Manhattan. We’ll be having a march. It’s part of Occupy Wall Street. Veterans will be joining the protest today.

The caller would be lucky to get to the veteran part&#151which is the news hook&#151without the reporter or editor yawning or interrupting. Now, here’s an example of an effective pitch call:

Hi, I’m [name], calling on behalf of ‘Veterans of the 99%’. Tomorrow, military veterans dressed in uniform will march in-step from the Vietnam Memorial in lower Manhattan to the Stock Exchange. Then they’ll join Occupy Wall Street &#151 where they’ll use a “people’s mic” to talk about why, as veterans, they are participants in the 99% movement. Did you receive our press release?

While the second pitch is actually slightly longer than the first, it is packed with words that command attention and stimulate the imagination. Everything in the pitch floods the mind with powerfully vivid images. The first example, on the other hand, is bland. There’s no indication of what the caller is even talking about until a few sentences in.

Hooks & messages | grassroots communications tips pt.2

If you’re reaching out to the news media as part of your grassroots social justice campaign, it’s important to know the difference between your hook and your message.  Your news hook is whatever you use to get reporters to show up in the first place (e.g. hanging a banner on Mount Rushmore).  A campaign message is what you actually want to communicate to the public, through the filter of the news media (e.g. “America needs real leadership from President Obama on the issue of global warming.”).



Do I see Beyond the Choir co-founder Madeline Gardner up there?

Hooks and messages are rarely the same exact thing, and it is important to know the difference.  An attention-grabbing tactic (which is the hook) can all too easily become the entire story, without any reporting about why activists might go to such lengths.  More times than not this is what contemporary mainstream news coverage of protests and direct actions looks like.  I have helped to plan actions that were only covered as part of the traffic report because the news desks had decided that the only thing relevant to their audience about our action was the potential that we would disrupt the smooth flow of traffic!

How to pitch reporters | grassroots communications tips pt.1

Part one in a series.

To “pitch” a reporter or assignment editor on a news-worthy story is to call them up-typically after sending them a news release-and attempt to persuade them that they should come out (or send a reporter) and cover whatever you want them to cover (probably an upcoming event that you’re planning).  A good pitch call is at least as important as sending a good news release.  With a call, unlike a news release, you are creating a memory of a human-to-human interaction.  It’s your opportunity to make a strong impression so that when the reporter or editor goes into their morning or afternoon meeting-where they’re deciding which stories to cover-they are more likely to suggest covering your event.

Reporters and editors are busy people.  They typically sound as if they are unhappy that you reached them by phone, and you’re lucky to get a full minute of their time.  An effective pitch call makes a strong impression within the first five seconds, and makes at least the start of a compelling case within ten seconds.

For comparison, here’s an example of an ineffective pitch call:

Hi.  My name is [name].  I’m calling about an event that we’re organizing.  The event will be here in Manhattan.  We’ll be doing performance in the streets, protesting the Iraq War.  Iraq Veterans Against the War is organizing the event, along with their allies…

I would have been lucky to get that far without being interrupted.  Now, here’s an example of an effective pitch call:

Hi, I’m [name], calling on behalf of Iraq Veterans Against the War.  Tomorrow combat veterans who recently returned from Iraq will be patrolling the streets of Manhattan, dressed in full uniform.  They’re staging mock combat operations similar to what they experienced in Iraq – to show New Yorkers the realities of military occupation.  Did you receive our press release?