Public Relations and Holidays

When it comes to the story ideas that get “the green light” from the executive producers of television shows and the editors of newspapers and magazines, there’s a bit of a paradox that continues to fascinate me.  You might expect the producers at the network morning shows and the editor of your local newspaper to be most passionate about stories that are truly unique, original and not to be found elsewhere.  There is certainly a place for innovative storytelling and breaking news (and those two categories deservedly rank highest on the priority list for most media outlets) but these journalists also realize that their respective audiences crave stories that provide them with useful information they can put into action in their daily lives — and topics such as preparing a great meal for Thanksgiving, finding the most romantic gift for Valentine’s Day, how to stick to one’s New Years resolutions, and even whether Punxsutawney Phil continue to have a place in “the media cycle” year after year.  (During my years producing for ABC’s “Good Morning America,” on holidays such as Valentine’s Day and Halloween, we often invited viewers to submit short homemade videos relating to that holiday.  We announced the winners (and showed excerpts of the winning entries) on that particular holiday as a way to drive up ratings — and celebrate our viewers, of course!)

In other words, if you can find a way to tailor your story idea to a specific holiday you can significantly boost your chances of coverage — what those of us in the public relations field call “earned media.”  There are three factors to consider when making use of a “holiday angle” when pitching your story.

First, keep in mind that the producers are reporters you’ll be pitching and (if you’re lucky) working with are likely to be extremely busy and overwhelmed with other assignments.  For some reason, it’s often easy to think of “the all-powerful Media” as some kind of huge monolithic entity (just as any of the presidential candidates about this) rather than a business consisting of hard-working individuals (like you and me) who feel the daily pressures of their job and wish they had more time to spend with loved ones.  If you can make all communication (including your original pitch) concise and efficient, you’ll be sure to “score points” with that journalist.  It will also be helpful if you can “think ahead” and suggest what might be seen on the set of the show, or have “the characters” who will be featured in the story all lined up and ready to go.  (For a segment on delicious treats for a Halloween party, you might want to have six or seven adorable children with fun costumes all lined up, and available to join you in the studio for that segment.  The producer you’re pitching — and working with — will appreciate your proactive thinking!)

Second, it’s important to understand the unspoken understanding that every show has with each guest they feature.  Just like a movie star promoting their latest film, if your story idea gets “the green light” and you’re invited to appear for an interview or segment, it’s not “a gift” — four or five minutes of airtime for you to use as you deem best.  Instead, that segment is “earned media” — an opportunity for you to serve that show’s loyal viewers by giving them useful ideas and insights that will be useful and meaningful in their lives, or at the very least an opportunity for them to be entertained or inspired.  In other words, in exchange for that airtime, you are expected to deliver “takeaway value.”

Third, to underscore this point, make sure that you devote most of the time during your television or radio interview (or your time with a print reporter or online journalist) to serving others rather than being “self-promotional.”  By keeping this in mind, you’ll earn the appreciation of the producers and on-air talent you’re working with and this will not only result in interest from potential customers and clients (as you’ll be seen as an expert, and someone who “gives value”) but this will also frequently lead to an invitation to appear on that show once again, as “a regular.”

If you find these ideas useful – and I certainly hope that you do — I invite you to subscribe to my weekly newsletter, where I share more ideas of this kind and have a chance to “dig a bit deeper” into how we can create the most powerful impact for our message and build the strongest possible relationships with producers, reporters and others in the media.

Also, for those who are willing to do most of their public relations work themselves — writing press release, finding the right journalists to pitch, and so on — but seeking a little outside guidance, in Invite  you to take a look at my “PR Coaching” program through which I offer one-hour sessions on a continuing or one-time basis.  You’ll find the tab for more information about this at the top of my website.s home page.

Last but not least, happy holidays!