"Send me your interesting guests;" content is king
A lively panel of broadcasters headlined 2003's final Meet the Media outing at the Press Club.
First up was Barb Lewis, host of the radio program "Sound Medicine" on WFYI-FM. Lewis mentioned, only half-jokingly, that she was "begging for guests." Her medical program is a product of the IU School of Medicine, although she tapes at WFYI's studios. The confusion often results in people trying to contact her at WFYI; don't. Her offices are at the Med Center: email@example.com or 317-626-7794.
Barb's seeking interesting science and health-related guests. "I need good talkers . . . people who can sustain for a half hour. This is a different animal than the snappy soundbite provider." Don't send voluminous c.v.'s, they're way too long.
Perhaps surprisingly, Lewis said she sometimes sends questions in advance to her guests. "I'm not a gotcha interviewer," she said. Her audience is evenly split between men and women. Most are 50+, college-educated, and have a higher-than-average household income. "Our program is not extremely timely, but we compensate by being more in-depth."
Lewis' producer for Sound Medicine, Ellen Gullett, is a great person to pitch ideas to (firstname.lastname@example.org; 317-283-5407). Lewis is also a contributor to the TV program "Inside Indiana Business," where she seeks health-related stories that influence Indiana's economy, such as projections on how this year's flu season will impact worker productivity.
The articulate Sharon Gamble next took the podium. She hosts "The Art of the Matter" on WFYI-FM, and she considers her show to be "appointment listening." Sharon's program celebrates the myriad ways the arts enliven our lives in central Indiana.
She pulls in 8,000 listeners to her weekly program, and "they fit the classical NPR profile: well-educated, high-income, liberal, fiscally concerned." Sharon's show is a full hour, and it airs on Saturdays. "If you're going to pitch a guest, do this first: listen to the program to catch its tenor." "The Art of the Matter" consists of three interviews, each from 12-15 minutes in length. "That's a l-o-n-g time by radio standards."
"We don't go in for the scandalous, such as the ballet's problems; we support." Radio is all about sound, she reminded us: "We've got to paint our picture with words."
More quotable tidbits from Sharon: "Bring me the guest who's so passionate he gets tongue-tied." "Believe it or not, our Arbitrons show people flipping between our show and Q-95." "If all else is equal, I prefer to do a show about an arts organization that doesn't have deep pockets. For instance, we're interviewing a street musician next week - that guitarist on the Circle we've all seen."
And this: "If you have a choice between sending me an important guest or an interesting guest, send me the interesting one."
Next up was Gerry Dick, host of TV's "Inside Indiana Business." Dick described his company's growth pattern, which epitomizes the concept of media convergence. Grow Indiana Media Ventures features radio, TV, and Web-based content. "Our TV show is just one part of our family of properties." What this means to PR pros is that Dick and his staff of eight can potentially leverage your story idea through other channels - potent stuff.
The flagship TV program airs on a dozen stations statewide, with Channel 13 the local home base, although Dick and Company tape at Channel 20's studios. Video is archived on their Web site for six months, helping achieve ‘«ˇstickiness' to the tune of 11 minutes on that recently re-done site (www.growindiana.net).
Jason Fenwick is Dick's executive producer and primary gatekeeper. He offered up tips a-plenty: "Know who you're pitching to. We're not a print product - yet. Consider our audience, which is business managers and executives. Explain to me why I should care (about your story). Don't throw a bunch of technical terms at me; I don't get them and neither will our audience. Make it relevant. Provide me with localized sidebars. It can be a challenge to come up with video for business stories. Help me to understand how we can make your story visual, be it graphic generation or video. Provide me with e-mail and cell phone
numbers. I like to hear this question: ‘«ˇWhat is your deadline and how can I help?' Supply me with bio info. Prep your interviewees to conform to our maxim: sharper, shorter, snappier. But don't over-prep them and lose their spontaneity. If I have to tell you ‘«ˇno' on a pitch, don't globalize that to mean that we don't like you and don't welcome future pitches. We do!"
On the Internet side of the house, "We posted our 10,000th story this week," Raquel Bahamonde, who manages e-content for Grow Indiana, said.
Raquel also came armed with more uber-helpful tips: "When you send us e-mails, which by the way is our highly preferred method of contact, compose your subject lines with great care. I get so many submissions that I have to make editorial decisions based on that subject line. Be specific, state the company name, and summarize what you want."
And another ah-ha tip: don't use attachments in your e-mails. Anti-virus software strips them out. Cut-and-paste into the body of your email.
Another surprising observation Raquel made was that contact info on press releases was often wrong. "If you're going to be on vacation, don't use your name on a release. If you are available, give me every chance to reach you. That could mean pagers, cell phones, whatever."
Radio is a burgeoning segment for Grow Indiana. "We partner with WIBC at 7:35 a.m. and again at 5:35 p.m.," Dick said. It's distributed across the state.
"When we first started this enterprise, Jason and I were concerned we wouldn't be able to fill 30 minutes with solid content," Dick said. "At this point, we could easily fill two hours every week." For PR people, this means the competition is tough, but the rewards are worth it. "The convergence model is great," he said. "But, content is and always will be king."
Ingrid Cummings, APR