Getting Positive Publicity
By Jeff Crilley
The fax machine in our newsroom is constantly spitting
out news releases. And most of the time, I read
what's being pitched and wonder if anyone involved
bothered to watch the news before pressing ‘send’.
I remember in the days following Hurricane Katrina,
seeing hundreds of news releases that had absolutely
nothing to do with the disaster. I wanted to pick up the
phone, call the poor PR person who was faxing us and
shout "Turn on your TV set".
On the other hand, there are countless days each year
when it's so slow in newsrooms across the country, we
journalists are lighting candles to the news gods
praying for something interesting to happen. If you
want to crank up your PR machine, you need to know that
the news biz is actually no different than every other
business. It's based on supply and demand.
On a busy day, when the supply of news is plentiful,
there may not be much of a demand for your story. But
pitch the same story to us on a ‘slow’ news day and we
are all over it.
Holidays are great times to try and get your story
covered. As a general rule, anytime government offices
are closed, it's a slow news day and the media will be
anxious to cover anything that even resembles a story.
TV, radio and newspapers still have to put out the
news, whether there's anything newsworthy going on or
The week between Christmas and New Year is notorious for
being the slowest of the year. Time and time again,
stories that would never make the news during a normal
news cycle suddenly become interesting when no one else
is feeding us news.
On the other hand, every once in a while the media will
get a hold of a big story and you'll have a feeding
frenzy. Last year's hurricanes, the start of the war in
Iraq and the September 11th attacks are all examples of
the kind of mega-stories I'm talking about. When
we're in one of these kinds of feeding frenzies, TV and
radio stations will devote entire newscasts to the story
and the newspaper will publish a special section on one
event. It seems no other story even matters.
When the media is totally focused on one subject, don't
even waste your time with another story. It won't make
air. Each station is trying to out ‘team coverage’ the
other and before you know it, there's no news time left
for anything else. They'll even cancel sports and
weather if a story becomes big enough.
I remember when I was doing nothing but soft news,
sometimes people would call with a great story and I'd
have to tell them to call back when things returned to
normal. If you see these news typhoons coming, you have
only two choices really. You can wait until it blows
over and then pitch your story or you can take advantage
of the media madness.
For instance, it doesn't matter how poorly your team did
last year, on opening day every baseball team in the
country is World Series-bound. Hope springs eternal,
right? Well, a disc jockey in Dallas, USA named Alan
Kabel knew he couldn't fight the media attention
being given to opening day for the Texas Rangers. So he
came up with an angle to complement the coverage and
suddenly it was whole new ball game.
Alan sent out a news release announcing that in a show
of support for the Rangers, he and his morning show
co-host would be sitting in every seat in the ballpark
on the day before opening day. Pure publicity stunt,
right? You bet it was. But you know what? It was so
timely no one could pass it up. To use a baseball
analogy, Alan hit a grand slam. Every TV station in
town showed up to cover his stunt.
Alan knew the TV folks would be out at the ballpark that
day anyway doing a preview of opening day and all of
them would be looking for an angle. It was either get
video of Alan going from seat-to-seat in the 50-thousand
seat ballpark or interview the head groundskeeper on
He had the right story at the right time. If he had
tried it on opening day, the game itself would have
overshadowed his stunt. Two days before - he would have
been too early. The day after opening day? Too late.
When it comes to news, timing is truly
About The Author:
Jeff Crilley is an Emmy Award winning TV reporter who
speaks at no charge on the subject of media relations.
He's the author of the first PR book from a working
journalist's point of view. For more info, please