How to Approach Your Local Television Station
How do I get my topic on the news?
Television stations are besieged with requests to promote special interest topics. Be sure your request is received by the station in a clear and concise format. Remember, bite prevention will be competing with a multitude of other newsworthy topics such as crimes and international crises, not to mention the old standbys of sports and weather. If you handle your initial news story with professionalism, chances are good that the station will be responsive to future stories involving your agency and its mission.
To give the television station ample lead time for Bite Prevention Week (insert date) the initial contact should be made a month ahead.
First, telephone a local reporter to pitch your message over the phone. They are busy people, so do not keep them on the phone too long. Offer to put the request in writing.
Be sure to mail the letter the same day. Limit your letter to a single page using your agency's letterhead stationery. Use the sample provided as a starting point.
Give the television station 3 to 4 days to respond. If the reporter does not telephone you, call him or her to make certain the letter has been received.
Are there other options besides the news?
Television stations have public affairs programs. Contact the program's key person, using the same technique outlined above, to appear on the show. Guests are usually scheduled months ahead of time, so give yourself plenty of lead time.
What should I do to prepare?
The two key ways to sell a story to local TV is to
- localize. Provide the reporter with local statistics. Contrast local statistics with state and/or national statistics. If local statistics are not available, the reporter may be willing to accept statewide statistics (second choice) or national statistics (a less desirable option).
- personalize. Make this topic real to the people in your community. For instance: Why are dog bites important? Answer: They cause human suffering, including physical and psychological scarring, expensive medical bills, etc. The victims are often children.
Be sure you have local people who are bite victims (or the parents of bite victims) selected who are willing to do interviews with reporters. Not having to locate interviewees will save the television station staff time and energy.
Oh, my goodness! I'm going to be on TV! What should I wear?
If you have a uniform, wear it. Uniforms always gives the aura of professionalism. If you will be interviewed in street clothes, keep it simple (for example, a plain suit in medium tones). Avoid colors that contrast starkly (dark and white, or pale colors and loud prints or stripes). Avoid small prints like houndstooth. Wear clothing that looks professional and makes you feel confident.