PR Insider: 4 PR Tips to Pitch During Sweeps

Four times a year, media types and PR pros find that magical ‘Kumbaya’ moment when they all agree and start singing “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” It is a little like the holidays in that a gift is on the horizon -- ratings, pitches, and all that love.

In the biz, it’s called “sweeps.”

These Yuletide-esque periods in the media happen in February, May, July, and November. These special times for media execs are when networks schedule programming to attract that more expanded demo. These people are turned into numbers, and those numbers are hoisted on flagpoles for all broadcasting networks for all current and prospective advertisers to stare and make purchasing decisions.

Shawn Paul Wood

All your favorite shows premiere or have their season-ending cliffhangers. The investigative reporters come off vacations. The consumer reporters break out the greatest hits. And for PR people, we get to position those clients that do not offer solid news and offer more heart-tugging human-interest appeal.

There are 210 media markets out there, and all of them wish PR people paid more attention to pitching during sweeps. So, here are four good tips for your pitches during sweeps.

1. Think Ahead. We all know pitches are these golden moments in time, but how often do we pitch around them? A PR pitch during sweeps should be sent a month in advance. At least. If you want that solid sweeps story, producers and editors have to pitch, photographers and reporters have to be assigned, the story has to be taped, and then there needs to be a spot to air. If you plan for that during this plotting-for-ratings bacchanal properly, you will be thanked for it more times than most.

2. Don’t Be a Wet Blanket. BCC pitches are the worst. Copy-and-paste pitches are a very close second. There’s no secret there; yet, these blanket pitches make their way into reporters’ inboxes everywhere. We get time efficiencies and billability obstacles, but the absolute worst time for these ‘Dear NAME’ emails are during sweeps. Every TV station in your fair burg approaches sweeps differently. The real pros in this business know that. To customize a pitch accordingly is the difference between seeing your story on TV and being cancelled.

3. Add Value Not Ego. Help a network make some ratings, people. Stop trying to catch a ride on someone’s coattails and try to buy them a new jacket. PR is about being a resource. Truth be told: they don’t need our help. However, a good PR pro in the neighborhood is always a good thing to have. What story are you asking the reporter to create? Think about that and bring them most of the resources to make it happen. Sweeps are the time for the journalists to shine. You need to bring a flashlight.

4. Do Your Research. Yes, you should know to whom that pitch is going. Moreover, you should know why that pitch would matter to them. That’s one kind of research we should always do; however, what kind of research are you providing in your story? Where’s the data and how will that help create a sound bite? Your pitch plus facts that resonate with the audience could equal your story on air. If there’s a spot, and a good data-aided pitch to fit the bill, break out a broom because you are helping your favorite local TV station during the sweeps phenomenon.

Hopefully, to make the media a better place (and your agency a little happier too), these tips will help you develop something that is so much more important than a story for your client. Good pitches during sweeps help develop great relationships in the media. And those are all the gifts that keep on giving. Ho-ho-ho.

Shawn Paul Wood is a 20-year veteran of traditional and digital public relations, as well as a former radio news director and on-air talent. He is a managing account digital strategist for Ketchum PR. Follow Shawn: @shawnpaulwood