PR Insider: How to Reach Reporters Outside the Newsroom

Adam Myrick
Adam Myrick

Media outlets have been shuttering news bureaus at a significant pace over the last decade. The Washington Post closed its domestic bureaus five years ago. CNN closed its Baghdad bureau a year ago, the last American media outlet to do so.

But there’s a type of bureau that’s still hanging on. The local TV news bureau continues to trudge along. In many cases, it’s morphed from a brick-and-mortar office to the car or house of a multi-media/backpack/digital journalist – the kind of reporter longtime broadcasters and media relations pros used to call a one man band.

In the event you ever need to pitch a local TV news bureau reporter, it’s important to remember they’re often a different breed and tend to play by a slightly different set of rules than the general assignment reporters who call the main newsroom home. In short, they sometimes have more freedom and flexibility than their colleagues back in the newsroom. With those considerations in mind, I’ve checked in with several local TV bureau reporters for a few insights and pitching tips that uniquely apply to them.

Location, location, location

“It’s best to make sure the pitch focuses on our specific area. We may be in a certain city’s bureau, but we tend to cover the surrounding cities/counties, too – the ones farthest from the station’s main office.” –bureau chief in a top-40 market 

This brings to mind the “do your research” mantra of media pitching. If you know your pitch would be best served up to a reporter in a bureau, make sure you’re pitching the right bureau. Sure, they can forward the email to the main news room if it’s not in the bureau’s coverage area…but take a few minutes to determine what portion of a market is covered by a particular bureau and then make the pitch to the most appropriate bureau. Bureau reporters have a laser-like intensity on their coverage area and don’t take kindly to anything that, even momentarily, takes them away from that.

Deadlines more intense

“We generally are on even tighter deadlines than the rest. Typically bureau reporters are MMJ's meaning we shoot and edit...that means more time to do the work after the shoot. We have less time to chat when at the shoot.” –bureau reporter in a top-15 market 

And they’re often covering multiple stories a day. So, we need to make it easy for them. Be open to early morning shoots. Consider driving and meeting them halfway. Most will have time for that. Skype might be an option too. And have somebody ready to talk with them on camera. That means two people. Yes, they want to hear from the spokesperson…but a “real life” person from the community is important. My best contacts in local TV bureaus always tell me, “We love talking to PR types because most know how to speak in sound bites, but we need a real person too.” Make a point of lining up an interview for them.

Follow-up is key

“Your news release should get right to the point and should be sent at least one or two weeks in advance. A follow up phone call should be made the day before the event with an email as well.” –bureau reporter who covers four counties 

This is one local TV bureau reporter’s preference of how she likes to receive follow-up from media relations professionals. It’s a good starting point for establishing your own protocol for following up. It could end up being different based on a reporter’s preference or the type of story you’re handling.

These three areas represent important considerations to remember the next time you pitch a local TV news reporter working out of a bureau (i.e. their car or house).

What about your experiences working with bureau reporters in some of the outlying areas of a media market? Did anything strike you as different from the times you’ve worked with reporters out of the main newsroom?

Adam Myrick is the media relations specialist at BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina.

Follow him on Twitter: @adam_myrick.