And the Least Used Resource in PR is …

There I am, having lunch with a few broadcast journalist friends of mine – discussing sweeps, salty news directors, and sundry water cooler talk – when a subject came up over passing the rolls that sparked a debate.

“I don’t think I’m that popular any more. Maybe I need a new beat.”

This was said by a general assignment reporter with a fair amount of airtime and prestige in my fare burg. What could have sparked this drama over meatloaf and a healthy side of broccoli? We did! Yes, public relations professionals. Before I could pass him a tissue and argue the point, another colleague chimed in.

“I know exactly what you are saying. I answer their calls but still … nothing.”

I figured this casual dining experience had to be a set-up and I was about to get punked. And then the question happened:

“Would you please ask your people to remember who we are?”

Yes, more than a decade in a newsroom gets discarded when you are in the company of playful chums like this. However, their cries did not fall on deaf ears and I’m here to do their bidding. My PR colleagues, we need to watch the news.

When students and young professionals ask me for advice I ALWAYS tell them, “Watch the news!” Well, my friends, the same advice applies to even the most seasoned PR pros among us.

Regretfully, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard, witnessed or experienced this quandary. We are in public relations: sharers of stories, purveyors of perception and habitués of the headline. It is stunning how many people in our business don’t watch the local news.

It’s too sad or I don’t have time or I just need to see the weather is not enough to support your local broadcast. These are the people who provide us a platform, and to help place our trusted clients on that stage, it would help if we knew our resident reporters. If you find yourself hesitating to reach for the remote, here are a few tips for getting the most out of the nightly news:

1. Watch the same story on different channels.
The news in your city doesn’t always break the same way. Learning the difference between how each network tells the same story can help you customize a pitch (click to tweet). What does one network look for in a story versus another? Understanding the difference could be what separates your pitch from the others.

2. Increasing your news viewing during sweeps.
This is when the networks break out the “greatest hits” – consumer reporting, investigative stories and all that fabulous human-interest footage. What creates ratings on each network should be the reason you take copious notes and learn how to cut through the clutter of an inbox.

3. Get to know the local storytellers.
For the love of Edward R. Murrow, please learn who is responsible for the real stories. Anchors don’t usually change but the beat reporter and general assignment person are always looking for unique angles on a reoccurring theme. Your pitch could be what matters most … if you get their name right.

I’ll make you a deal. Tell me you’ve read this blog post in the comments section below, and I’ll talk some of these local reporters off the edge. Oh, and they said, “Hi.”