Tell Me More

February 4, 2011

How to Establish Credibility with Assignment Editors and Producers 

When a publicist calls a contact on behalf of a client and asks, “Do you have a minute, I have a story that might work for you?” If the producer, editor or writer says, “Sure, what do you have for me?” you actually have less than a minute. You have one sentence in which to pitch your story. John Resnick, an Associated Press editor, is generous with the one-sentence pitch; Resnick is actually open to a two-sentence pitch, he says:

“When you pitch a story to me, give me two-sentences, maybe, but after that, I’m going to throw a lot of questions your way, I’m going to want to know about the people in the story, the background of the story—you need have all that information in your hands and know it like clockwork. Essentially, you’ve got to do a lot of the legwork on the story before you ever call me up . . .”

The publicist with that information in their hands wins.

Each day, producers, news assignment desks, editors and reporters all make decisions about what stories they’re going to cover. What’s trending? What’s compelling and what is truly breaking news? —These questions and more come into play when deciding what to cover. The pressure to choose the right story, the best story and the one that may be the most talked about story, is very high.

A publicist gains credibility with producers, editors and writers when they consistently pitch strong, newsworthy stories and have interesting contacts.

A publicist needs to know who’s producing what shows and when. They have to know the story deadlines for the programs and all of the publications related to a client’s project. Publicists need to ID freelancers who are favorite writers or field producers for top media. You have to know every story your client is capable of participating in—and you should be fun to work with. The phone call will get picked up—yet the preferred pitch medium is without a doubt: email. Same rules apply: you have one sentence.