GG’s Alex O’Connor offers the “who, what, when, where, and why” of inviting broadcast media to your local event.
Depending on what kind of events your organization hosts and what your media goals are, broadcast—defined in this piece as network television—might be a great option to elevate brand awareness. It can help your organization reach a wider audience, connect with important stakeholders and community members, and put your news center stage. But what kind of events are appealing for bookers of television broadcast shows, and how should you go about inviting reporters to attend your event?
The broadcast media is most interested in events with a strong visual component. In the nonprofit world—my expertise—this often means a groundbreaking, ribbon-cutting, or similar unveilings of new community-facing spaces. Our work has included local health centers, affordable housing, and homeless and domestic violence shelters. We recently invited broadcast reporters to a groundbreaking event where the nonprofit’s CEO took a sledgehammer to an interior wall, which was, of course, featured on the local news because it was going to be entertaining for their audience.
Along with the visual excitement of your event, notable speakers and attendees are an important asset to generate interest from broadcast media. Local community leaders, especially legislators, can be a strong pull for media outlets, so you’ll want to include a list of them in your media advisory.
A media advisory is the “who, what, when, where, and why” of your event. It is how you seed interest from reporters, usually about a week before, by giving them the most important logistical details as well as a brief description of why they should care about your news. You also should offer to share a full press release with reporters after the event is completed.
Pitching broadcast media isn’t like pitching for other media opportunities. While it can be helpful to reach out to journalists early, you likely won’t know if an outlet is planning on attending your event until the day of. Yes, you read that correctly—most producers won’t assign a film crew to cover an event until the morning the event takes place. You should call the news desks a few hours before an event to see if any reporters will be attending.
If you know reporters are coming, you should have one person ready to be the reporter’s point of contact on-site. That person can show the reporter where to set up the camera, answer any questions, and direct the reporter to organizational leaders to make sure they are interviewed and recorded. News networks will only use the best quotes from the recorded conversations, so prepare your spokespeople with great talking points that will wow the production team editing the footage.
When we prepare our spokespeople to do interviews with media, there are a few tips we typically offer, like listening closely to the reporter’s question, talking slowly and clearly, and taking pauses. The most important advice we give for broadcast interviews is to be concise and get to your point. Oftentimes, only 10 seconds of the conversation will be used in the broadcast, so if it takes a minute to make a point, they will probably use someone else’s interview.
Now that broadcast journalists came to your event and recorded some great footage, you can usually expect to see the coverage air later that day. For reporters who couldn’t attend, we always offer photos; even a great iPhone photo of your CEO standing at a podium would suffice. Extra points if your CEO is holding a sledgehammer and swinging it at an interior wall.