How to connect with TV news personalities on social media

How to Connect with TV People on Social MediaBy Roshanda E. Pratt

Television personalities, producers, reporters, anchors and news managers are more accessible than previous years past.

During my tenure working in television news eight years ago, the access to broadcasters was almost non-existent. I remember vividly working alongside reporters on stories. I had to field calls from viewers who wanted to chat with their favorite anchor or host to pitch a story.

Most often, those calls were transferred to voicemail.

This was not the media acting arrogant. Could you imagine spending your day on the phone? Television people are constantly trying to manage the clock. If you spent the majority of your time on the phone, you would get little or no work done.

This super-connected world has shrunk the distance between media and the viewer.

They Need Sources

Most local television news stations require their on-air talent to create social media profiles with the purpose of connecting with viewers who could be potential sources for stories.

Reporters’ contacts in their address books are a goldmine. For a journalist to create a wide network of sources through social media, it eliminates traditional efforts of making phone calls or meeting over lunch.

Instead, reporters can use social media and other digital services to post queries online and wait for potential sources to respond.

Nowadays, journalists are online, just like the rest of us.

Muck Rack is a great tool which connects journalists, their readers and those who want to get covered. Muck Rack has taken some of the hard work out of connecting by posting a big list of journalists active on Google+. Facebook has launched Journalists on Facebook to help reporters find sources, interact with readers and advance stories.

So what about your local media? I am so glad you asked.

5 Tips for Connecting

  1. Connect with your local personalities on the social media platform where you see they hang out the most. You can find your local media on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and even Linkedin. You’ll have to do some research to find out which media people use which social media platforms, but it will pay off.
  2. Engage don’t stalk. Say hello and create a relationship before you start pitching. The best way to do that is by commenting on their work. That’s why it’s important that you become familiar with their beats. Believe it or not, they are people too. You can comment by sending a short message to their email address at the station.
  3. Pay attention to what they might be looking for. If  you can honestly help, make yourself available. If not, don’t “pretend” that you can because it can hinder the new relationship. Remember, no one likes a phony.
  4. If you do decide to pitch, don’t be rude or spammy. Nobody likes that. If you are going to send a message through Facebook, for example, remember that you’re not the only one using that feature. My advice: Don’t even bother. You have a better chance sending a message to the email address at their TV station.
  5. Do your homework before connecting. Watch their news reports to become familiar with their work. Go to their websites where  TV stations often have profiles of on-air reporters and anchors. Read the profiles to learn more about them. Also, Google their names to see if they blog. A blog will most likely include many more details about them that you could weave into a pitch, if relevant. See how to find the name of a blogger’s dog, cat or kid in 60 seconds and journalists’ blogs offer valuable clues about how to pitch them.

 Bottom line: Don’t wait for the media to throw you a bone. Instead, make the first move.

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This guest blog post was written by Linda Rastelli, a New Jersey-based journalist, video scriptwriter, publicist, ghostwriter, editor and author.

*     *     * 

By Linda Rastelli

Months after salmonella-contaminated chicken distributed by a California company sickened people, the dangerous food is still being sold around the country.

Reading that in a New York Times editorial scared me.

I wondered whether I’m at risk because I buy chicken at Costco, which announced a recall of 40,000 pounds of chicken from Foster Farms that harbored “Salmonella Heidelberg.” Kroger Co. also took it off the shelves, while California-based Foster Farms continued distributing it.

Foster’s strategy not to recall the chicken in question is a high-stakes gamble.

Consumers are left confused, unsure whom to trust. I was reminded of another salmonella scare that caused me to eschew spinach for a time, despite knowing that was not entirely rational.

Emotions can trump facts. If people are frightened, the truth is irrelevant; your brand is damaged. Fear cripples, and may even kill, your reputation.

What can a Publicity Hound do to manage fear?

1. Apologize.

You may say, “What if I’m not at fault? Apologizing makes me look guilty when I’m not!” 

Maybe you’re not guilty, but you defuse anger by saying you’re sorry people were hurt. Now, this isn’t legal advice; that’s not my purview. But even doctors who apologize for bad outcomes are sued less frequently for malpractice. Consumers want to feel that you care and won’t put profits above safety.

Foster Farms has apologized for people being hurt, but at the same time firmly maintained that its chicken is safe if well cooked, its official position.

2. Reassure. 

If you suspect any issues about your product or service that may turn people off, deal with them, whether or not you think they’re legitimate. Maybe your industry has a bad reputation that’s rubbing off on you.

Don’t dismiss this. Get in front of it. Explain on your website and social media why yours is unlike the others.

The faster you respond during a crisis, the better. The longer you delay, the more unconcerned you may appear to the public. Your response should include what you are doing going forward, and a clear explanation of what happened and why.

Most important is your assurance that it will never be repeated. What steps are you taking? Although Foster says its chicken is safe, it also details its new procedures designed to exceed federal safety standards, above U.S. Department of Agriculture requirements.

Of course, even the best PR cannot save a bad product. If you try to conceal a health risk, eventually biology catches up with you.

Consumer Reports, among others, have publicly chided Foster Farms for not issuing a recall. If people continue to get sick, its strategy will look self-serving at best and duplicitous at worst. If things improve, the company will look vindicated.  

3. Educate.

This is a good public relations opportunity for advocacy groups and Congress, as well as the poultry industry, to discuss food safety practices and to educate the public on their respective roles in protecting public health.

The Times blames “weak regulatory powers” at the USDA, and calls for Congressional hearings to tighten regulations. The public could use a debate. If people are losing confidence in the USDA’s standards, that’s a PR problem too. Foster itself implies the standards are too low by pledging to do more.

Consumers need explanations, instructions and information. Foster Farms devoted prime space on its Facebook page and website to answering questions.

Foster Farms

So Who’s Sal Monella?

An online commenter wrote:

I remember Sal Monella. He was the Cubs shortstop back in the 70s.

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Linda RastelliNew Jersey-based Linda G. Rastelli is an award-winning journalist, video scriptwriter, publicist, ghostwriter, editor and co-author of Marketing: Essential techniques and strategies geared toward results (John Wiley & Sons, 2007) Connect with her on Google + and LinkedIn.

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