Cable news has made viewers more accustomed to flashy sets complete with digital touch screens showcasing detailed geographic locations mixed with plenty of multimedia. In more ways than one, 24-hour accessibility of cable news changed the look of the television landscape for the better—by incorporating new ways to keep viewers engaged while showing various demographics that news broadcasts can be cool. For instance, music producer Will.i.am interviewing with CNN via virtual hologram minutes before the 2008 election results were announced.
As industry and technology trends continue to influence and ultimately trickle down to local news affiliates, there seems to be a proliferation of more comfy couches, an increase in cable news-like guest appearances and those same multimedia enhancements. Thus, PR pros can mine new opportunities to communicate ideas while creating more efficient ways to leverage what could be considered “old” ideas. Because despite the new-age cable news flash, there remains valuable ways for PR pros to tell meaningful stories on the local front through strategically crafted television packages.
So, how do you pitch a pickup-worthy TV package in today’s competitive media environment? Here are three tips to keep in mind when considering whether a story idea merits a local television package:
â–¶ Focus on amped-up storytelling. PR people need to be cognizant of the story and how it will appeal to viewers’ senses when creating a local package. What does this idea look, taste, smell and feel like? Yes, dramatic as it may sound, offering this additional appeal concisely to television producers responsible for packages can be the key to success.
Aside from event coverage and other breaking news opportunities, crafting a TV package is a chance to share a story that—without this forum or a paid advertisement—perhaps wouldn’t get told with the detail that comes from a carefully constructed package. Typical storytelling necessities of trends and “real people” are two key ingredients, but, beyond the trend, there may be another compelling story.
With TV packages, producers don’t need the person who could also be the on-set guest; they need the story you can’t tell by sitting on that comfy couch doing a one-on-one interview in-studio. Perhaps it’s the stay-at-home mom who got braces along with her teenage son and how that experience helped them both cope with having braces; or the corporate VP who was Type A about everything except her appearance and affected a broader change in the health of her organization by losing weight. Many times, stories that could be a package are bigger than the “expert from afar” trend story quotes.
â–¶ Make it visually pretty, please. A local TV producer once said to me, “Sometimes, PR people think we assume what the visual is in a pitch, but we don’t.” For most story ideas that are package-worthy, there can be a handful of different visuals and shots required. Understanding that packages can be time consuming for both clients and broadcast media, it’s important to understand the visual landscape of where your package will be taped. No television crew wants to show up to a location and be regulated to the obligatory “walking down the hall together and chatting shot.” Think about what else is visually available, and be sure to clearly spell out those visuals when you first reach out with your story idea.
â–¶ Take a deeper look at TV story ideas to see if they can work as a longer package. Some trends and story ideas make the best packages—after a second look. In many cases, there are details that can make an untimely package timely or a business-to-business story relevant to everyday consumers.
Taking a second look, or in many cases leveraging relationships, can morph your idea into a package. Ask yourself these questions: Does my agency have two clients who could illustrate this trend visually and combine their stories to make a powerful package? Does my client have a partner/customer who is the perfect additional source to beef up this story? Looking at what’s available, and what may take a little reporter-style digging, is another way to craft an idea and show today’s stressed television producer that a lengthier package is merited by your multi-source, comprehensive and well-packaged idea.
Even though lengthier packages may be harder to come by in today’s evolving news environment, there remains a place for the right story to be told. It is up to the PR pro to visualize it and clearly lay it out for the decision-making producer. Like other facets of PR, the more work we do up front, the better the result. PRN
This article was written by Andrea Bogos Trapani, senior VP at Identity Marketing & Public Relations, a Bingham Farms, Mich.-based agency. She can be reached at [email protected].