By LEILANI ALBANO
AAJA-LA President Jinah Kim tells people who pitch stories to media outlets to be persistent in their efforts to get their ideas in the news.
“Just keep pitching it,” says Kim, a news correspondent with NBC News. “If you believe in your product, eventually others will too.”
Kim, who served as one of four panelists, was among the more than 35 journalists and public relations officials who joined in the chapter’s “Media Access Workshop” at the NBC/Universal Studios in Burbank in April to discuss how nonprofit and community groups can successfully promote and design their media strategies.
Joining Kim on the panel discussion were Los Angeles Times Staff Writer David Pierson, IW Group Inc. Founder Bill Imada and KNBC 4 Planning Editor Sindy Saito. KABC 7 News Anchor David Ono served as moderator.
Among the topics discussed were how news organizations choose their stories, what is a story pitch and what media strategies works and which don’t. The panelists agreed one of the biggest mistakes most people make is not knowing how to properly pitch stories to reporters.
“People watch the news every single day and they always wonder, ‘how is it that a newsroom picks the stories that’s going to air or print in the newspaper that day?’ ” Kim said. “It’s a big mystery to them how to get access to the media.”
She suggests people do their homework before approaching the media.
“The first thing you have to do is watch the news,” she said. “If you want to pitch an event or story in the future, you just have to watch what TV news does, or you have to read a lot of stories.”
The panelists also agreed individuals who want to pitch stories for their organization should pay attention to aspects of a particular news outlet: What is the their target audience? Which reporter should they be talking to? Can the story be pitched to different departments of the newsroom such as the style page or the business section?
Attendees were invited to share problems they have faced presenting story ideas to the media outlets following the discussion on story pitching.
Angela Hynes, who serves as a board member for a conservation and educational nonprofit group in the Amazons, was stunned to find that the press release she sent on Earth Day about an Woodland Hills housewife who started a health care center in South America generated little interest.
After discussing her dilemma with panelists, she realized one problem was her timing in getting the word out.
“It would be better not to peg it to something like Earth Day because (there is) such an overwhelming amount of material (being generated) at a time like that,” Hynes said. “It would be better to do it some other time of year.”
Pierson suggested suggested try she widen her scope to also include different departments of the newsroom, community and ethnic media. He also suggested she try to think of pitching her story with a bigger audience in mind.
“Organizations don’t think big enough,” Pierson said. “They think too local. They have to think about how certain stories expand to have larger meanings … and to be ambitious.”
How to approach the media about her latest project, “Pasito Tunes,” is what drew Ana Maria Ortiz to the workshop.
Ortiz, who is a public relations coordinator with La Caracao, had concerns about her press release. La Caracoa, a Latino retailer, is launching the iTunes product featuring Spanish-language songs. Ortiz feared her release would get lost in the shuffle of other press releases.
But after listening to panelists, she decided she would take Pierson’s advice to introduce “Pasito” to different newsroom departments.
“I’ve been taking a lot of notes,” said Ortiz, “and I’m definitely going to… reach out to the consumer reporter, maybe the style (reporter), and maybe take a picture.”
After attending the workshop and listening to the panelists, Ortiz said she felt better equipped to present her story ideas to the media.
“I learned to more effectively communicate to my audience,” she said.
Hynes said she also benefitted from the discussion.
“This has been invaluable to me,” she said. “I would recommend it.”
Leilani Albano is a news reporter for KPFK Radio in Los Angeles.