On today’s episode of Brandstorm, we welcome Katrina Cravy, author of the book ON AIR: Insider Secrets to Attract the Media and Get Free Publicity. Katrina discusses how business owners and entrepreneurs can best connect with local television outlets for features and interviews, and how to perform well on-air when given the opportunity.
Formerly with WITI-FOX 6 in Milwaukee, Emmy-winner Katrina Cravy spent more than 20 years as a television news anchor, investigative reporter, talk-show host and radio personality. Now as a professional speaker and communications coach, Katrina is hired by C-Suite executives and large organizations such as Aflac, GE Healthcare and the Salvation Army to boost their teams’ communication skills.
Katrina has interviewed thousands of people throughout her career, and her wealth of experience in front of the camera gives her credibility in the communications arena, as well as an understanding of what makes for a good interview and how guests are selected. She enjoys taking people through the process of ensuring they’re a great public speaker, whether on camera, in front of a microphone or speaking directly with media.
As to why she shifted gears from the anchor desk to more behind-the-scenes work, Katrina explains that she always had a love for entrepreneurs and their stories of how they came up with their product. Prior to one speaking engagement, Katrina decided to abandon her typical presentation about how she started in journalism. Instead, she addressed the prime questions she usually receives: how does someone get on your show and how can they become an expert in one of your stories? That speech was well-received by her audience and a colleague from the Better Business Bureau told Katrina that she was sitting on a mountain of great information for people seeking publicity, or earned media. He insisted that she begin writing her thoughts on the subject. This eventually became content for her book and a new career in communications coaching.
The Anatomy of a Perfect Pitch
Katrina uses the acronym H.A.V.E. when instructing people on how to perfect their pitch:
- Hook — Determine why news outlets would want to do a story on you currently.
- Audience Benefit — Whether it’s for print, radio or television, what is in it for the media’s audience?
- Visual — You should have something that television can use right away, whether that’s a demonstration, artwork, YouTube clips or “B-roll,” which is supplemental or alternate footage footage to intercut with the interview.
- Engaging — Have fun and be energetic, even if the topic is serious. Show the audience, as well as the producers, that you’re engaged.
Other Great Tips
When crafting your email, Katrina recommends starting your pitch with a compliment, referencing a previous article or program from the show, and the reporter or host’s name. Let the station know what you can do for them, as opposed to what the station can do for you. It communicates that you’re in touch with what they normally broadcast, and that you have content that will fit with their format.
If seeking publicity for a specific event, three weeks prior is a safe lead time for you to pitch it to media, Katrina indicates. Phone calls should be made around 10:30 a.m., after the morning news meetings in radio and TV, which typically occur between 8 and 9 a.m.
It’s very important to not just have a local angle, but to also feature the word “local” itself prominently in your communications. Katrina says that news is dying for local content and it will stand out amongst the hundreds of emails that reporters and producers go through every day.
Katrina encourages publicity professionals to get to know on-air talent on a personal level. Take them for coffee, hand-deliver your pitch (or even a complimentary box of donuts for their staff) and take the time to learn what they need. This can often make the difference in being featured or not when coverage involving a national news story may benefit from having a local contact who can speak to the issue.
Once going on the air, Katrina encourages guests to think of themselves as the host. While anchors may know a lot about many topics, this is your chance to show you’re the expert in one particular area.
Biggest Pitch Mistakes
Katrina says that public relations professionals and companies that do a mass-mailing pitch that isn’t personalized, or is too long, often won’t be responded to. She says that a quick, individualized pitch that specifies the who, what, when and where of the story is key.
She also tells people to avoid repeated emails that ask if the original message was received. Follow-ups are definitely recommended, as guests sometimes fall through and a replacement could be needed at any moment. Follow-ups should never ask, “Did you get my email?” Use the follow-up phone call to re-pitch your story idea.
Is Everyone Coachable?
Katrina mentions that while many of her clients are life-long learners who are open to critique, some need more assistance than others. She says the right coach tries to find what’s going to make that person learn better, as not everyone can go through the same process. Katrina says people often associate fear with public speaking and that it’s not inherently natural for people to appear on camera. She urges her clients to recognize the tension that public speaking creates and to address their own fears first. Speakers should know that the audience is already in their corner, as they want to be entertained and educated. What’s important is to recognize that the speaker also needs to be in the audience’s corner, providing them with needed content in an engaging way.