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TUNING IN

A blog dedicated to the world of broadcast and public relations

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Pitching NPR: Tips for Garnering Air Time

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We are often asked, “How do you pitch stories to National Public Radio?”  People listen to National Public Radio and hear some interesting stories and think their clients would be a perfect fit.  If only pitching NPR was that easy!  NPR is one of radio media relations’ toughest nuts to crack.  But while it may be harder to pitch NPR than other outlets, there are some tips that may yield success in garnering public radio airtime.

Pitch More Than One Reporter.  National Public Radio prides itself on its rich news reporting operation.  It has many types of talk shows and beat reporters who cover a wide range of issues.  From the short newscasts to the longer form interviews in Talk of the NationFresh Air or All Things Considered, NPR provides an abundant array of different types of topics that can work on air.  So if you get a no from one reporter in one area, tweak your pitch with a little twist and try someone else.  You can even ask the producer or reporter who has turned you down, if there is anyone else he or she would recommend who might be interested in the story.  Be tenacious; there are a lot of places your story might work.  A lot of legwork can go a long way!

Keep it Timely.  As with most pitching, the most important element is timeliness.  If you are able to pitch a client’s story that is related to a news topic currently being covered and provide a spokesperson quickly, when NPR needs him, the chance that you’ll get on the air increases greatly.  Having to go back to your client and reconfirm with NPR’s reporters or producers will often turn them off, so know who you have available and be sure the spokesperson will make time for the interview when NPR wants it.  Be sure to tell reporters you’re pitching why the story is important now and make sure this element of your pitch is strong so you can really grab them.

Use the Element of Surprise.  Right on NPR’s website, it says that the network loves the element of surprise in story pitches: “Like all journalists, we are looking for true stories, events or people that present something new, important and interesting to a nationwide audience.”  So if you have something unique, highlight that novel or unusual aspect of your story to really pique NPR’s interest.

Make Sure Your Audience is National.  If your story has more of a local or regional angle that would appeal to one geographic area over another, pitch your local NPR station first rather than NPR nationally.   When a story gets local coverage, there’s always a chance the local reporter will feed your story to the network for national coverage.

Keep It Short and Sweet.  Remember, your initial pitch should be only about a paragraph if you’re emailing it.  If you are leaving a voice mail message, get to the point in 10 seconds.  And remember, don’t bury the lead.  Lead off with the most important information first.  Really grab the reporter’s attention first, and then fill in the specifics after you have him or her hooked.  Don’t send attachments, but feel free to imbed links in an email.  Give the reporter context though, about why he or she should click on the link for more information.

Provide Contact Information.   And after all this hard work honing your pitch and finding the right person to pitch, don’t forget the most important information: how to reach you, the best times, and the best methods to contact you.  Be as accessible as possible.

Remember, if you are pitching a specific story and it doesn’t get picked up now, don’t lose heart.  As long as you are continually reaching out to NPR, you will end up in the right person’s Rolodex at the right time, some time down the road.  NPR has a rich database of experts, so reminding reporters of your expertise and area of coverage will eventually pay off.

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