There are a few achievements of which I am most proud, and getting a story featured on Brian Williams’ NBC Nightly News is one of them. I thought I’d share how it all went down, since you might like to get a story on NBC, too.
It wasn’t as easy as I thought it should be. We had a great story to tell….. That should be enough, right? Not even close.
My experience has revealed the hard truth that the news we watch on television has gone through a multitude of steps and alterations before hand, making it “news worthy”.
While the optimist in me wishes this were different, knowing this process has helped me tremendously with clients to shape their message and deliver it in a way that starts conversation and builds their online reputation. You might not like the manipulation of facts, but you are just as much a part of the equation. Ultimately, ratings determine what gets promoted on TV, and juicy stories get told more often than vague boring ones. Sorry.
Here are the steps to getting a story covered on national news:
1. Start with having a story to tell and don’t be afraid to promote the drama.
Of course, be able to speak about facts, figures, values… but shape these around the juicy parts and don’t shy away from the spice. In our case, a small group of inspired people produced a fundraising event that took place in 16 countries around the world on one day. The people involved had heroic stories, some tragic and many inspirational beyond measure. Be prepared to highlight the dramatic elements…. so that the values will see the light of day.
2. Know how to pitch a story.
News organizations have many levels of approval for getting a story actually broadcast. The person you pitch will have to pitch to the person who will have to pitch to the decision maker. Therefore, you better deliver an amazing pitch that can be retold perfectly. Know how to highlight the key elements you want to remain attached to the story.
3. Make friends, not contacts.
It’s a small world, and I’m not talking about bullshitting your way to a contact. I’m saying, open your heart and make real friends with people you want to do business with, including that person you track down to deliver your news pitch to. Make friends with the Associate Producer (titles mean everything and nothing) who will be making the initial pitch.
4. Make the producer’s job easy.
After the pitch comes filming logistics, which costs a news organization a lot of money… or less money. Guess which stories are more apt to get told? In our case, with an international event, it was easy to suggest using local NBC affiliate camera men who could cut the production budget substantially. I arranged for every essential element to be in one place and made sure my contact knew that. YES was my middle name.
5. Control the story.
Be prepared to control the story from the shadows… meaning, make sure the camera films what you wanted to say…. Prep your people, give talking points, make sure people are exactly where you want them to be. Don’t risk another story getting told, or another topic pulling focus from your key points for your client.
6. Don’t make the producer have to do any research.
Once the film crew has left, it’s pretty much out of your hands. Fingers crossed, you wait to hear if it will actually fit into a news program… In the meantime, since you are friendly with your contact, provide helpful information- facts, figures, that will help fill in the gaps of your story. Massage it through until you have done everything you can!
7. If you are lucky enough to see the end result through to fruition, know it wasn’t luck at all.
You’ve got talent, my friend, and THAT is how news gets made. Next step, is to create a juicy form of share-able content…. Like this video below that I trimmed and edited.
Here’s our story about our important fundraising event that made it to air on Brian William’s NBC Nightly News. You won’t see me much…. I’m running around behind the camera!