Philly arts and culture reporters share tips on how to get great press coverage
Arts and culture communications professionals packed the house at a Philadelphia Public Relations Association (PPRA) and Center City Proprietors Association “Meet the Media” event last month to meet representatives of Philly’s leading print, radio and broadcast outlets. Visit Philadelphia President and CEO Meryl Levitz led the panelists through a discussion about the best way to work with the local media who specialize in arts and culture or hospitality and tourism. Some key insights:
- Pitch with the medium in mind.
“Sound hooks earn stories,” said WHYY Arts and Culture reporter Peter Crimmins. He referenced a recent radio segment on the Kelly Writers House expansion. The sound hook that sold the story was a voice from the organization’s archives–William Butler Yeats reading his poetry.
Good Day Philadelphia’s Jodi Harris said that it might seem obvious, but with TV, you have to think visually – like when they brought Philadelphia Orchestra musicians on set to reenact the YouTube-captured impromptu concert on a delayed flight that famously went viral.
- Offer multiple options for digital coverage.
WHYY reporters rewrite their radio pieces for the Newsworks.org website, which “gives stories room to breathe,” Crimmins said. Crimmins said WHYY reporters look for stories that can keep the ball rolling on different platforms, mentioning Canary client Mural Arts for their psychylustro installation. “The story ran online and on the air,” he said. “It will get attention because it’s a new and unusual thing.”
Philadelphia Business Journal’s Jared Shelly agreed that outlets want multiple ways to tell a story. He said it could be a two-minute video or a photo slideshow like the one Philadelphia Business Journal posted for the Night Market in Old City.
- Show how you’re local.
Daily News reporter Lauren McCutcheon said that even when working for a publication that is clearly focused on the Philadelphia region, she receives pitches for events all over the place. “I like pitches that are local,” she said. “Put ‘Philly’ in the subject line and I’ll click on it a lot faster.”
It’s not just events within Philadelphia boundaries that are of interest to news outlets. Harris said her program covers all the counties surrounding Philadelphia. “We’ll get out there and we can go live on TV outside of the city,” she said. “We have seven segments a day to fill on the morning show, and we’re always looking.”
- Personalize the pitch.
“A reporter wants to feel like we’ve made the story our own,” said McCutcheon. “We want to feel like we’ve been singled out.”
“If I see your story in the Inquirer and then you ask if I want to cover it—no, I don’t,” said Crimmins. “Sometimes a follow-up story can be great; you have to dig for some new angles.”
In the end, it’s not as much about the right pitch, but about the relevance of the story itself for the outlet’s readers or listeners. “Tell me the economic impact of the project, or if there is going to be a significant impact on the neighborhood,” said Region’s Business’ Michelle Boyles.
Shelly left the crowd with some parting advice: “If you have pitch that you know is not news, and you know we are going to know it’s not news—then leave it alone.”
Photo courtesy Tag Strategies.
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