Crider’s Corner – Pitching to TV Reporters

One thing every park operator should know how to do is pitch their park to TV reporters.

Granted, many parks are located in remove locations, and I have found that most TV reporters are not willing to drive more than an hour from their office to cover a story unless it is truly compelling.

You also have to keep in mind that when you pitch a TV station to cover an event or other story at your park, you are literally competing against every other type of “breaking news” that could be taking place at the same time, from brushfires to court cases to protests to meetings of government officials.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying.

I have had success getting TV reporters to come to cover a variety of events or other stories at campgrounds, including the following:

— Heat waves: When the temperature soars into the triple digits, TV reporters often head out looking for great video opportunities to showcase the things people do to cool off. I’ve asked campgrounds to reach out to reporters when this happens and have had great success. TV reporters like to get video of kids sliding down waterslides or jumping around on splashpads or swimming pools. This is not only a great spot news opportunity, but once the reporter is at your park, you can talk to him or her about your other activities and attractions as well as your rental accommodations. Oftentimes, once reporters know what you have, they will come back to visit your park in the future for another story. So the next time you have a heat, you know what to do!!

— Interesting campers: Sometimes, you will have people staying at your park who are worth a TV story in their own right. Some noteworthy examples I’ve heard about from park operators include traveling doctors and nurses. Maybe you have a special kind of medical specialist who loves RVing so much that they would be willing to share their story with a reporter. Check first and coordinate a time for the pitch. The story will primarily be about the guest, but your park will be featured in the same story! Maybe you have a family that is traveling across the country together. I’ve interviewed people in situations where the wive and the kids spend the week traveling in an RV, then they rendezvous with dad someplace on the weekends. What a great story! Do you have any families doing this at your park? Make the story pitch about these amazing families and you might entice a reporter to come out.

— Exciting park expansions and improvements: Are you in the midst of expanding your park? Are you installing new cabins? Don’t wait until everything is doing before calling a TV reporter. It’s actually more newsworthy and visually interesting when the construction work is underway. Are you adding new water features? A new swimming pool? A new slide? A water play park? Make sure TV reporters know about this.

— Business trends: Are you busier this year than last year? There have been record numbers of RV sales. Is this translating into record business at your park? That’s a viable TV story. After all, you represent the campground segment of the tourism business. Invite a reporter to come out and see how busy your park is. While they are there, you can use the opportunity to talk about the things that are drawing people to your area and what your outlook is for the future.

All of these stories are worth pitching. But you have to take the initiative to do it — or assign someone on your staff to do it — to make it happen.

Here’s how to do it.

Get on Google and look up TV stations that cover your area. You should be able to find a section on the homepage that says “Contact Us” or “About Us.” That’s where you will usually find a phone number and email address for the newsroom.

Before you call them, figure out what your “pitch” is going to be, based on the ideas I’ve provided above. Write out a brief pitch, maybe using two or three bullet points. Then call the newsroom to make your pitch.

Ask for the “assignment editor” and they will refer you to the correct person.

They may ask you to send an email with your idea, but it’s best if you can actually talk to someone to see if they are interested in your idea. Then follow up with the email to that person or whomever they direct you to.

The best time to make your pitch is in the morning, between 7:30 and 8:30 a.m.

Keep in mind that even if you receive an enthusiastic response from someone in the newsroom, they may not show up. TV newspeople are like that. They always respond to the hottest story at any given moment and may not send someone to cover your story even if they’ve told you they will be there.

Don’t lose hope. Try again another day.

Welcome to my world.

Jeff Crider is CalARVC’s publicist.