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Brian Pittman passed along several tips last week after interviewing Penelope Dunham, producer for ABC-TV’s Channel 7 in San Francisco, on how PR people can pitch in the wake of a disaster. He gave me permission to share them with you.
“Surprisingly, I have had NO pitches relevant to Katrina,” Dunham said. “You think I would have. Certainly clients dealing with anti-depressants, antibiotics and disease-prevention, childhood trauma, post-traumatic stress and a host of other angles would be smart to pitch right now.”
“I am not getting ANYTHING normal on the air right now,” Dunham said. “I’ve found a couple of related stories, but we have also been bounced from several shows because the [story] wasn’t targeted specifically to Katrina. Right now, it’s Katrina or nothing.”
That said, Dunham offers these quick pointers for what–and how–PR pros should be pitching since so much of the news hole is now appropriately devoted to recovery efforts.
1. Step back—and review your idea in light of the disaster. “I did not see any greedy or insensitive releases after [the disaster],” Dunham says. “But stories [and PR pitches] like ‘Breakthroughs in Rosacea Treatment’ should have been held. Plus, any press release that uses the words ‘breakthrough’ gets an automatic black mark from me. It is the most overused word in medical pitching and should be banished unless they really do have the CURE for cancer.
2. If your idea isn’t completely relevant—then advise the client to hold it. “My advice is educate the client to wait [with non-relevant ideas right now]—unless it’s a major drug that got FDA approval that day and HAS to go out,” Dunham says. “Even though this story will go on for months or even years, the media has a very short attention span. Tell the clients to be patient and pitch it two or three weeks from now,” she suggests
3. Timing is everything—so know when the news hole will open up. “Timing is just as critical without a disaster, i.e., during sweeps,” Dunham says. “Educate clients with cosmetics, plastic surgery and even sleep products or migraine cures to do their PR campaigns about two to three weeks before February, May and November,” she advises. “Producers planning for television sweeps are dying for product. Save the boring products for dog days of summer or Christmas or March when not much is happening.”
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The time to time to pitch stories for sweeps week isn’t during sweeps week but long before. TV reporter Shawne Duperon and I teamed up to share more than 200 story ideas that you can pitch during sweeps week and every other week of the year. We shared them during two teleseminars titled 116 “WOW!” Story Ideas from January Through June and 103 Sizzling Story Ideas from July Through December