How to avoid playing title roulette with newsroom pitching

Understanding editorial titles as they relate to pitching the proper journalist can go a long way in improving the ability of PR professionals to serve their clients.

In my first PRWeek Insider blog, I focused on how the increased migration of journalists to PR agencies and senior corporate communications positions can help junior and mid-level PR pros better understand the inner workings of the newsroom.

For example, understanding editorial titles as they relate to pitching the proper journalist can go a long way in improving the ability of PR professionals to serve their clients.

A natural follow-on post is to dive deeper into journalist titles and how they affect pitching – particularly for TV and radio stations where there is more title diversity and perhaps less clarity on whom to pitch.

For insights into the best plans for matching radio and TV station staff titles to pitch strategies, I checked in with Richard Strauss, president of Strauss Media Strategies. His radio chops trace back to serving as the first White House Radio Director under President Bill Clinton.

·         Cut through the clutter quickly – For PR professionals pitching radio news, time is often of the essence. This isn't like pitching a print publication with a three-month lead time, so every minute counts. Radio station titles can include the news director, assignment editor, talk show producer, executive producer, and program director. Rather than playing title roulette and bouncing around the newsroom until you land on the right person, Strauss advises his team to cut to the chase right away and ask for “the person making news decisions.” This, according to Strauss, ensures you are talking to someone with the clout to make decisions, and accounts for the fact that smaller radio and TV stations may not have as deep or wide a staff as larger stations.

·         Timing matters – If you are going to pitch radio station news directors – particularly at smaller stations and in smaller markets – understand that they may frequently be on the air for news updates. For that reason, if you are reaching out to newsroom decision makers at the wrong time, pitching results can be negatively impacted. Even if the news director picks does up the phone around the time they are going on the air, they may only have 30 seconds to hear your pitch and will be multi-tasking for the duration of it. More strategic timing of calls ensures your call gets more focused attention, which leads to better results.

·         Leverage in-house expertise, or acquire it externally – Strauss reinforces the value of having a former journalist on staff at a PR agency to provide others within an insider's perspective of how radio and TV stations work, how the news department interacts with the programming department, etc. In the absence of this internal resource, it can be useful to forge relationships with radio and TV station staffers and set up one or two informal meetings or phone conversations to learn the climate of the radio stations and how these news personnel want to be contacted. Alternatively, agencies can invite news staffers to “lunch and learns” with agency staff – a mutually beneficial effort that journalists are often open to being a part of.

Brian Lustig is a partner at Bluetext, a branding, digital marketing, and strategic communications agency based in Washington DC

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