While it may seem obvious, the one big difference between television and radio is video, and the power it holds to capture viewers simply can’t be underestimated.  Words and sound are important, but moving pictures are potentially more important when it comes to television.  Try turning down the volume and just watching the visuals.   Then do the opposite.  Nothing creates a more impactful story than both elements, strategically combined.

So, let’s look at the five most important elements of pitching TV:

  • Think about the visuals.  Unless you are working with a hot celebrity, there is nothing duller than a talking head.  So, before you pick up the phone to pitch, you need to figure out what the visual elements are going to be that will make your story compelling.  Remember, television is about viewership, about creating memorable images that re-enforce good storytelling.
  • Good storytelling incorporates a strong human element.  For example if you are working with the American Diabetes Association on the latest campaign to fight type 2 diabetes it is not enough to offer a sound bite with the director of the organization.  If you want your pitch to turn into a TV news package, you may need to find a family for a reporter to follow to illustrate its day-to-day struggle with diabetes, to witness the fear of a family member losing a limb or his or her eyesight because of the disease, or to see the limitations a child faces when diagnosed with diabetes.  Viewers relate to the circumstances of other people as they see the story through their eyes.  They share in their joy, sorrow, triumph or tragedy.
  • Look for those local angles if you are pitching local TV stations.  It should come as no surprise that local TV stations focus on local news.  They leave national news to the networks unless the story impacts their local coverage area.  So, if you can find a local twist for your pitch, you will be that much closer to getting your story on the air.
  • Pitch a strong, single angle.  Keep in mind, TV news stories and interviews move quickly ranging anywhere from 30 to 90 seconds.  They need to focus on one important news angle, be told concisely, and in a visually memorable way.
  • Formulate a compelling pitch to override the cost.  If you are pitching an interview for a satellite media tour, remember satellite time costs money.  Stations don’t want to book interviews they can’t use.  Remember, once you sell a producer on your interview, it normally has to be cleared with a news director or someone who is watching the newsroom and production budget.

In closing, a simple rule to remember when pitching television reporters and producers is that they think about three elements when they create: “sound, pictures and seconds.”  They want to grab their viewers, hold their attention for 30 – 90 seconds, and then move them to the next story.  If you can sell your pitch in those terms, you’ve got success!


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