Morning Shows: Helping your neighbors rise and shine

Local morning shows offer many opportunities to get your clients screen time. Christie Casalino discovers what kinds of pitches wake producers up

Local morning shows offer many opportunities to get your clients screen time. Christie Casalino discovers what kinds of pitches wake producers up

If your client roster consists of A-list celebrities and blue-chip companies, it's within reach to have your pick of placements on shows like Good Morning America and the Today show. However, if your accounts aren't quite as well known in the national media, then the world of regional morning shows might be just the place to pitch. And while an affiliate show might target a smaller audience, it takes just as much skill and persistence when pitching - and the rewards can be just as great as those from its national counterpart.

"My experience has been that regional morning shows can be a lot more fun," says Sarah Znerold, president of Carlsbad, CA-based SZPR. "They can offer great exposure for some of your smaller clients and give them entree into TV."

But one of the most important things to keep in mind when pitching these shows is to keep the story local.

"It's much harder for us to approach a regional show about a chain restaurant," explains Kelly McCabe, an account executive at SoapBox PR in Arizona. "Phoenix networks really love the 'micro-local' angle and prefer locally owned shops that are relevant to area residents."

Lisa Shenkle, president of Baltimore-based Verb Communications, says one surefire way to get your client airtime on a regional morning show is to tie the company in with a local politician or sports hero. In addition to covering the local angle, having a hometown celebrity involved with a client or in attendance at an event means that the celebrity would have his own team working on getting media placement, as well.

Research is another key factor when it comes to pitching the right type of story to a regional morning show.

"Before I pitch a single market, I go onto the television station's website and peruse their top stories," says Shenkle. "I advise that you take the five minutes before you contact producers to see what kind of stories they cover. Look at their local newspaper - it'll give a really great sense of where that city is."

It's also important to keep in mind the sensibility of the show and how it might differ from its national affiliate. When Kelly Hicks, former senior producer at More in the Morning, a CBS affiliate morning show in Kansas City, was pitched a story about the newest exercise fad that utilized stripping techniques, she had to decline.

"The pitch promised a demonstration, and national folks ate it up," says the current senior producer at KCTV5 News. "It's been on Good Day Live, and Teri Hatcher has shown it off on several talk shows. But, if I had allowed that on my morning show, I probably would've been fired. It was a little too risqu? for the local morning audience."

While that might not have been appropriate for a regional show, having some type of visual aid is generally preferred. "Day in and day out, they're filming in the same studio - which tends to have limited space, especially at shows that have budgetary constraints - so anything you can do to make it interesting makes your segment more appealing to them," explains Vicky Lewko, senior account manager at CarryOn Communication.

When Znerold pitched a segment on First Night Escondido, a New Year's Eve celebration in San Diego County, CA, she offered a segment with a series of performers, including stilt walkers, that would be filmed outside. But when it rained on the day of shooting, she learned the value of thinking on her feet.

"There are always things that come up and are unexpected, so being able to roll with the punches and being resourceful is important. Since it was pouring rain outside, and the stilt walkers were too tall to fit inside the studio, we decided to canopy them so we could still get the exposure."

Znerold also suggests preparing your client to speak in-depth about key messages or to perform for longer than an average segment, as regional morning shows are not always subject to the same stringent time constraints as national shows. "Once, when we were able to get a band on, the anchors began dancing and having fun. So instead of giving them 30 seconds of air time, it turned into two-and-a-half minutes."

In addition to avoiding any pitfalls that might occur while in the studio, it's important to avoid common mistakes on the way there - including overpitching.

"People at the same station do talk," says Lewko. "Just because you want to get as much coverage as possible, [doesn't mean that you should] address different producers and assignment editors within the same station. Chances are they sit next to each other, and if you overpitch, you'll wind up driving contacts away rather than covering your bases."

Pitching a segment to several morning shows in one region can also prove to be problematic.

"If you'll be booking multiple morning shows in one market, try to make the pitch a little bit different," says Shenkle. "If you ever have to go back to those producers again, you don't want them to feel like you've given them regurgitated segments in the past."

Keeping the pitch straightforward can be just as important as keeping it personalized.

"It's lovely getting big fancy press kits in the mail, and sometimes they're effective in getting the message across," says Jan Hickel, segment producer at Good Morning Atlanta. "But I need it broken down to its simplest form first, just to let me know what I'm dealing with. Later on, I'll deal with the nuances or extra selling points."

But as with any medium, one of the most important things that producers at regional morning shows appreciate is dependability.

"Be able to respond to producers quickly and help them out on a deadline," says Znerold. "If you're able to come through and deliver a segment that's valuable to their viewers, they'll remember you and come back again and again because they know that you deliver a quality story."

Technique tips

Do research the demographics of the region

Do prepare your client for longer-than-average airtime

Do include ideas for visuals in your pitch

Don't underestimate the value of regional markets

Don't pitch a story that doesn't have a local tie-in

Don't overpitch the segment to different producers/assigning editors

Click here for the morning-show pitch diary of Brian Pia, SVP, director and chief strategist, Luckie Strategic Public Relations.

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