Secrets of a Public Relations Professional…

How I got 60 Minutes to Change Their Segment Headline…

In early May of 2012, after months of setting up and managing multiple interviewees, producers and on-site location shoots with videographers, I pushed back with the producers to get 60 Minutes to change their online headline promoting the story for a upcoming 60 Minutes segment.

In fact, I have gotten dozens of media outlets across the country to change their segment titles, retract certain statements, remove their stories or change some or ALL of their online content after the story airs.  And, if I catch any errors in time, I’ve even had media organizations in Los Angeles resend out their crew to re-cut the promo segments which originally had wrong information.

Contrary to the beliefs of many in the general public, most media personnel try extremely hard to tell the story as best they can without any errors.  Their reputation as a journalist is at stake!  It’s their job to gather the information as quickly as possible, establish the story and then produce the segment under a timeline which is usually unreasonable.   So, in the haste of expediency and lack of resources, sometimes the message I want conveyed gets lost.

top_secretThere are many untold secrets in the public relations field, but I’m going to tell you some of my secrets as I have learned them over the years…

It should be obvious that as a public relations professional, it’s my job to insure I do everything possible to help my clients tell their story told in the right way.  This means that in my initial pitch, I need to be clear in the focus of providing a great ‘hook’ in my first email, call or Facebook message to whomever I’m pitching.  After I’ve hooked the media to showing up, I now have to provide everything on a silver platter so that the media can tell the story in the way I want them to tell it.

Once I have the media interested in the story, I try to provide them with as much pertinent information as possible. This includes providing them with supplemental HD quality video (also called B-roll) to help tell the story.  Whenever you watch National News, they tell the story with voiceovers and include that B-roll as backup visual to the story they’re telling.  If I provide this, it makes their job easier! In most markets, except those with union contracts prohibiting it, media can use this B-Roll without any problems.

The next secret I’ll unveil is that in today’s world, most TV stations will only send one videographer to cover the story.  This videographer acts as the reporter by asking questions so that they can use the interview audio as the B-roll of the story.  Very seldom do today’s media have the staff to send both a videographer and reporter.  So, what I do in these situations is ask the cameraman if I can help by holding the microphone.  This allows me to be close to the interviewee and listen to everything they say.  Once the cameraman is finished with his questions, I’ll ask if I can ask a few questions. In all cases thus far, they have agreed to allow me to question the subject. In ALL scenarios thus far, I’ve been able to ask questions, which better allow the interviewee to phrase the message in a better sound bite.

If I’ve done my job right as a media relations guy, the story should turn out great.  However, when dealing with larger events where you have multiple reporters, you might not have the adequate time to spend with each news organization to educate them properly.   You roll the dice and hope the story turns out the way you want.

Here’s the most important secret of all.  In cases of local media markets, once the story airs, an online producer (usually a recent college graduate) then downloads the segment, writes the online version and then uploads the story to their website.   If the uploaded version of the story, is written inaccurately it will stay that way unless the media outlet is approached to change it.  This is where I, as a PR guy come into play.  I am the guy that usually calls the station to request them to change the content.  And, in 90{fb2cd6ecc5ea822e7d55867f94952838aab4b89ae39846a722113040866900c7} of the cases thus far, they have changed the requested content.

This leads us back to explaining how I got 60 Minutes to change their headline.  With many national news segments, it may take months to develop, record and edit the components of the overall story.  In some cases of when you’re working very closely with the producers, they will feed you snippets of information. Just several days prior to the segment airing, I was sent a link of the first preview of the segment.

My immediate concern was that part of the 60 Minutes headline actually was the name of a competitor organization.  As I watched the preview, I was impressed, except for the headline.  Therefore, I immediately called the producer to express my deepest concerns.  After thoroughly explaining my reasoning, the producer said he would try his hardest to get the segment headline changed.  The senior producers agreed and thus the headline changed.

Here’s my advice: If you want your story told the way you want it told, speak up, challenge and, sometimes, demand changes be made.  You’re voice will be heard.  And, if you feel your voice isn’t being heard, raise your voice louder to their supervisor.  Changes will normally occur.

If you’re wondering what the headline was, it was originally stated “Wounded Warriors Inspire Gary Sinsie.”  The title was changed to “Disabled Troops Inspire Gary Sinise.” Another version of the segment was presented as “Gary Sinise, AKA Lt. Dan, is Committed to Wounded Vets.”  Many of you reading this blog post will understand the importance it was for me to get the headline changed.  In no way did I want to give any credit to another organizations’ name in the headline.  So, I fought to get it changed.  And, that fight was won!

I contend that you can help producers, especially social media producers in telling your story the way you want it told by explaining to them the reasons why it should be changed.  In most cases, they will make the change quickly!