What Giraffes Taught Us About Media Pitching - Media Panel Recap

    At a time when baby giraffes, or the lack thereof, fake news and alternative facts are dominating the headlines, it can feel almost impossible to obtain a little air time or print space for your story. At our 2017 Media Panel, local journalists provided insight on how to stand out among the multitude of pitches they receive each day and land that coveted space. Check out these highlights. 

    • What types of stories are the pros looking for?
      • Dan Cawley, executive producer of “Coast Live” on WTKR: "Coast Live" is setup with a pay or play format. You can either pay as an advertiser to deliver your message or you can provide stories that will entertain their audience; essentially come play with them for five minutes and score some free air time.
      • Janet Roach, WVEC-TV reporter and anchor: When not anchoring, Janet focuses more on investigative reporting.
      • Tom Robotham, freelance writer and American Studies instructor at Old Dominion University: Has recently been writing pieces on stereotyped communities within Hampton Roads.
    • Email was overwhelmingly the most preferred method for pitches. Here are some tips for crafting an email that will get noticed:
      • Have a catchy subject.
      • Lead with the story, remembering to not bury the headline.
      • Include all pertinent details in the body of the email. Many times attachments are blocked by email providers.
      • Make it as easy as possible for journalists by providing them everything they need, including media. Do you have photo or video? Send it over via Dropbox or another fil sharing site; however, be sure to use a site that does not require them to create an account or login. That takes time and time is precious.
    • Speaking of video, the panelists agreed that they love to receive it, but offered some tips:
      • Cell phone video is completely acceptable; however, please shoot horizontally. Vertical footage is a no go.
      • Use video to showcase people and their stories.
      • Provide exclusive video to different outlets. This may require more work, but journalists are more likely to use the video if they know it is exclusive to their outlet.
    • Follow national stories.
      • Do you have a baby giraffe? Kidding. But providing a local angle of a national story is a great way to get covered.
    • Continue to build relationships with journalists.
      • We’re all busy, but the panelists acknowledge that pitches from people they know stand out.
      • If you’re a larger organization, set up a visit to the news studio to have your teams meet each other.
      • Take a journalist out for a cup of coffee or pizza and a beer. They love to brainstorm, so schedule a date.
      • Pick up the phone. (GASP!)
      • Follow them on social media and don’t be afraid to pitch that way. It’s also OK to send them a message via social media.


    This week is Sunshine Week (if you don’t know what this is, stop reading and Google it right now), and the perfect time to discuss transparency and open government. The biggest tip from our panelists was to be as honest and transparent as possible. There are always things that can’t be discussed publicly, but don’t give the appearance that you’re withholding information.

    Fake news was, of course, a discussion topic among our panelists. Our panelists reminded us that journalists are professionals and, just like PR pros, work by a code of ethics. As such, they are committed to delivering facts. They noted that the use of information from social media requires journalists to be extremely careful when checking their sources.  It was also noted that in today’s media landscape, page clicks turn profit. If we want to change the media, we have to change the way we consume media. Tom Robotham stated that one way he combats fake news is by educating his college students on the differences between real news, fake news and satirical news.

    For more information on how you can become an expert media pitcher, check out these resources:

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