Eye On PR  

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MAYO enters year 2002 with a popular feature on its website:
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Everything from 
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August 15, 2002


HONING POLITICAL PITCHES 
with Reporter Martin
Casindorf (above), USA Today and KCAL-TV 9's Political
Reporter Dave Bryan.
 

Secrets of getting the attention of political media
PR pros should find a national hook when pitching candidates or hot-button issues to the media, two veteran political reporters told an audience at a PRSA/LA and On the Scene Productions panel. Two months before key national elections, USA Today political correspondent Martin Kasindorf and KCAL-TV political editor Dave Bryan gave pitch tips to PR pros attending the event, hosted by Burson-Marsteller.
 

Initiatives are better pitches than candidates
 

Because of its national focus, USA Today rarely looks at any candidacy less than a governor's race, said Kasindorf. "Every once in a while you have a legislator who does something sexy you might get in [the paper]," he added.
 


USA Today's Kasindorf filled in for L.A. Times columnist Pat Morrison at the PRSA event. Kasindorf also
wore Morrison's trademark hat
.

Kasindorf covered the White House from 1961-67 and has written about every presidential campaign, convention and election since then.
 

He said that initiatives have a better chance of getting into USA Today than stories about candidates. "If you're pitching a proposition, see if it has some kind of national resonance or speaks to something elsewhere in the country," he said.
 

Kasindorf prefers a fax or e-mail pitch. He can be reached at mkasindorf@usatoday.com and (fax) 310/882-1901.
 

Kasindorf said he's one of about 10 reporters, but only one doing political stories.
 

Celebrities, hot issues bolster pitches
 

Look for a broader interest, such as corporate scandals or terrorism when making political pitches, said KCAL's Bryan, who added targeting the right editor is also key in placing a story. He gave the following three tips to PR pros:
 

1. Find some kind of hook to a story that is currently hot: the corporate scandals, the "war on terrorism." Try to make some connection to a broader story everyone can relate to, or if there's just some aspect that is unique or different about your story, your candidate, initiative or campaign that distinguishes it and would make it have broader interest. Also, a first of its kind in some respect -- something that is perhaps on the cutting edge that other communities are likely to follow up on -- is attractive to news people. Something that a broader audience can relate to.

2. In television we tend to focus on celebrities. So if you've got Arnold Schwartzenegger, or someone from Hollywood is involved in your story who is well known, that would be a selling point and would generate interest among television stations.

3. In pitching TV, "who" you talk to in the newsroom is almost as important as the story you pitch, because if you're not talking to the right person chances are they're not going to make a decision about your story, and it may not go further than the person you're speaking with. You need to find out who the managing editor is, who the executive producer is, and in some cases, what the reporters' beats are. For example, Bryan has a lot of input on the political stories he covers and does a list of stories every day for editors to decide what to cover. Each station works a little differently. It is helpful to find out the chain of authority on news.


KCAL-TV's Bryan told PR pros to find a national hook, use celebrity when possible, and be sure to pitch the right person in a newsroom.

Bryan has been at KCAL for eight years. Before that he was at Fox KTTV-TV 11 for four years, and worked in San Francisco for CBS affiliate KPIX during the 1980's.

He has also covered most of the presidential nominating conventions, and said every four years he usually attends the Iowa Caucuses and other primaries. KCAL will be moving from the Paramount studios lot into the KCBS-TV newsroom in Hollywood, as a result of Viacom's purchase of CBS, and the merger means there are three political reporters: Bryan, Linda Breystone, and Mark Googan. Bryan could not say what's next when the move occurs in September, except to say Viacom wants to keep both brand station names.
 

"Although we're a local (Los Angeles) station, we have a lot in common with USA Today," said Bryan, "in the sense that TV tends to be a broad brush medium. We don't do much better covering council races than a national newspaper does, because the feeling is that our stories have to appeal to the entire audience. And remember our audience essentially goes from Santa Barbara to San Diego, and east beyond the Inland Empire to Nevada."


 

Bryan says he doesn't get that many calls and doesn't mind them, but prefers fax or e-mail pitches, and a follow up call later. He can be reached at dbryan@kcal9.com and (fax) 323/469-4979.
 

Both reporters said early mornings and early afternoons are the best times to reach decision makers in the newsroom.

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(**MAYO news releases) 

 


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