So you want to be on TV?
Earlier this year Givto appeared on BBC Look North with representatives from two local charities that were seeing the benefits of the service. So how did we do it? Givto’s media and PR expert Laura Mitchell explains, and provides some top tips on getting the media’s attention for your charity.
Anyone who works in PR knows that it can be challenging to secure media coverage, particularly in the current climate when the news agenda is so saturated and moving incredibly quickly.
I have been working in media relations for more than 12 years and I have never known it to be as tough as it is now. Luckily for me when it comes to Givto, we have a very compelling story to tell and an abundance of passionate people who want to help us tell it.
Last year we set out on a mission to promote our unique service to people across Yorkshire and set our sights on BBC Look North as the channel we wanted to use. With a lot of hard work, good will and perseverance we got there.
Securing a spot on local BBC news can be a challenge and of course many small charities don’t have the luxury of a PR person. So what can I share from our experience that might be useful?
1 – What’s your hook?
Charities do fantastic work. It’s a sad reflection of the times we live in that there are so many of us out there. And frankly, this makes for a competitive market when it comes to securing the limelight. So when you’re approaching the media, go armed with a strong pitch for why they should care about what you’re doing – or more importantly why their audience will. For our pitch, we used a number of hooks:
- Timeliness, as we had just officially launched
- Uniqueness, as we are the first service of our kind
- Proximity, as we primarily support the area where Look North audiences live, and
- Impact, by offering the opportunity to hear from charities about how what we do is supporting local people on the ground.
Another great way to get noticed is if you can find a way to make yourself relevant by jumping on a current trend or aligning yourself to something in the zeitgeist.
2 – It’s not what you know but who you know
You have to invest time in building relationships with journalists. They are being inundated with pitches from businesses, PR teams, charities, local authorities, you name it. Just dropping an email into their inbox probably isn’t going to cut it. I always advocate picking up the phone. Go for a coffee and chat face to face if you can. Tell them about what you do and find out what they need to make the story work – an impressive statistic, a big milestone, a compelling case study – and build your pitch from there.
If you don’t have any contacts, then a good place to start is looking on their website and getting a number for their newsdesk. If you know there is a specific journalist or producer who covers third sector stories but you can’t find their details, you could even try reaching out through social media.
3 – Your people are your best asset
Givto is run entirely by volunteers who are passionate about helping good causes and we support charities that do incredible and vital work. Ultimately people are interested in people so use that to your advantage. Find those compelling stories about the work that’s happening on the ground and select the right spokespeople to tell your story. We worked with two organisations that Givto has supported for the Look North package. Sunshine and Smiles – Leeds Down Syndrome Network and Aireborough Voluntary Services for the Elderly. We were able to take the broadcaster to two locations to see the work being delivered first-hand. This meant they could capture visuals that were strong, interesting, and varied across the two locations, which is vital for broadcast. Plus, we had spokespeople from the two charities and Givto who spoke passionately about the work we do together to make a difference. Speaking of spokespeople….
4 – Preparation, preparation, preparation
So you made your pitch, you’ve got your logistics sorted and you’ve identified your spokespeople. What next? Preparation is key. You might spend a few hours with the crew filming, but the average broadcast package is only a couple of minutes long. You need to make the most of that limited time. When it comes to interviews, really think carefully about what your key messages are. Keep it to three at an absolute maximum and use them in order of importance. The reality is that an interview might take around 15 minutes, but only around 10-15 seconds will make the cut. So what is the main thing you want the audience to take away? Once you’ve got your key messages sorted, keep practising them out loud until it feels instinctive. And don’t forget that it’s pre-recorded. You and the journalist are aiming for the same thing – the best possible package to make you and them look good. So don’t be afraid to ask to start again if you fumble the messages for example. Let’s face it, being in front of a camera can be intimidating!
5 – Try, try and try again
It probably won’t be smooth sailing, so you need to be persistent. I approached Look North a few times before I eventually spoke to someone who showed an interest in our pitch. Even when we had them interested and we had a date in the diary for filming, it got postponed a couple of times. Something else broke that the crew had to go and cover. It’s worth setting expectations with those who are supporting the filming that this can happen unfortunately. We just had to keep pushing and be flexible. Even when we had the filming in the bag, the broadcast date kept getting bumped for something more time sensitive. Again, persistence was key – making sure they hadn’t forgotten us and chasing for a new broadcast date regularly. It paid off eventually.
6 – Maximise your exposure
So you’ve done it. You’re on the TV! Congratulations… what next? Use the fact you’re newsworthy as an opportunity to maximise your exposure. Call up local radio stations and let them know and see if they want to interview you about it. Push out a press release to local media to coincide with it airing. Let everyone know to watch out for it on your social media. The bigger the better.
My final reflection would be not to be intimidated when it comes to approaching the media. You may feel you are lacking in media expertise or experience, but a lot of this can be made up for with enthusiasm and passion for your story. The story of Givto and the work our charities do speaks for itself.
I hope these tips help you feel a little better equipped to pick up that phone and get your story out there.
For more advice and support, check out the media section of the excellent CharityComms.
Laura Mitchell is Givto’s media and pr lead. Read more about Laura and the rest of the team in our Meet the Team.