Pitch Perfect: How to Get Local TV to Cover Your Public Library

In August, the Denver Public Library held an unusual fundraiser: It partnered with a local tattoo studio to ink literary-themed tattoos. The event raised money for the library’s foundation, but it also succeeded in creating brand awareness with news coverage on local television 

Library news on local television is a win for everyone. The station has a positive community story to fill their airwaves. You gain more exposure for whatever is happening at the library. The community discovers there’s more to the library than books.  

Local TV is an important media outlet for your promotional efforts for all of these reasons. But here’s another: Although local TV news viewership declined in 2017, it still has a wider reach than cable and network news or even, for the moment, social media, according to the Pew Research Center. A spot about the library on local TV, then, can have a significant impact on your marketing results.  

But how do you persuade the local news team to cover your story? Here are a few tips for making the perfect pitch. 

Pitch the right person 

The staffing structure of a public television station can be a confusing web to navigate if you haven’t experienced it before. The talent — those individuals appearing in front of the camera — may be the face of the station, but it’s the producers who decide which stories make it on air.  

Reaching out to a show’s news producer gives you the best shot at getting your story covered. But it can be tricky to find the name and contact information of the person to pitch. PR professionals often have access to media databases, such as Cision, but these tools are costly. Fortunately, many newsrooms post their staff directories on their website. If producers for specific shows aren’t named, call the newsroom directly and ask who to pitch.  

Craft the perfect pitch 

Before you start writing, it helps to understand the news priorities of your local broadcast. News programs want to cover the most compelling stories they can, but local teams also have a goal of spreading news about their community.  

A straightforward and to-the-point pitch is the most appealing to producers. Highlighting the most interesting part – “the hook” – of your story is key. Be sure you provide enough detail to give the producer a good sense of your news, but don’t feel compelled to include every detail. 

Another important aspect to your pitch is the visual element. If a local television station were to come and cover your story, what would they film? If it’s an event, there will be a lot for camera crews to capture on site. But if there isn’t an obvious on-camera image, it’s important to brainstorm visuals that you can then pitch to the producer.  

The final thing to remember is your audience and, more importantly, the station’s audience. Focus your pitch on what makes this news important to members of the community, beyond how it directly benefits the library. Thus, when crafting your pitch, ask questions such as ‘How does this story impact the community?’ and ‘If I were a member of the community tuning into this story, why would it be interesting to me?’ The answers will help convince local television stations that your story is worth covering.  

Persist until you connect 

Start by emailing your idea but keep in mind that producers are often overwhelmed with pitches. So, if you don’t hear back after a couple of days, call the station and ask to speak to the producer.  

It is important, however, not to be too pushy. Listen for context clues in the person’s voicemail. Maybe they’re out of town for the week or are out sick. If you’re unable to reach someone, head back to the station’s website to determine the next-best point of contact.   

Also, don’t be tempted to send your pitch to a generic ‘info’ email account. While the right person might receive it eventually, there’s a risk they’ll get it long after the news window has closed or not at all.  

Persuading local television stations to cover your stories can be tricky, but the end result — getting a minute or two of live news coverage in front of thousands of viewers — is worth it.  

About Tiffany McClary

Tiffany McClary is the Director of Communications, Marketing & Outreach for the New Jersey State Library. She coordinates marketing and public relations initiatives in order to enhance the reputation of the State Library, and promote the value of NJ libraries and the services and programs that they provide to residents.