June 3, 2010

The Perfect Pitch:

By Alanna Levine, MD FAAP
Developing a pitch for a television segment is not an easy task. You have one chance to pitch the segment to a producer, so it pays to make it a strong one. Producers scan through hundreds of emails every day-some they read and some they don’t even open. How do you make your pitch stand out, get read, and ultimately get picked up?

I have been pitching stories to the media for three years. I have developed relationships with many producers and have been lucky enough to get feedback from them on my pitches. The following are tips I have picked up along the way that help maximize the chance that my pitch will become a segment.

1. Develop a one line ‘tease’: Try to create the headline for the show in the pitch. What would the hosts say is coming up after the commercial break to keep people interested and prevent them from turning the channel? For example, “Spring Break Safety Tips: 5 things every parent should know to keep their teens safe while away on Spring Break” or “Is your baby safe in the car? A new study shows that only 20% of babies are buckled in properly. Find out how to make sure your baby is protected”
2. Be succinct: Producers don’t have that much time to spend on any one pitch. Put the most important points in the first lines of the pitch. Limit the pitch to one paragraph or a few bullet points. If they are interested, you can always provide more information later.
3. Give the story a hook: Why should it be in today’s news? Relate it to something that happened recently. For example, the week Michelle Obama launched the “Let’s Move” campaign was a great time to pitch a story about the importance of diet and exercise in kids’ lives. If a child was recently injured in a sledding accident, pitch a story about guidelines parents should follow to make sure their kids are protected.
4. Make sure the segment is timely: Pitch backpack segments just before back to school time; pitch segments about the importance of flu vaccines in the fall when they hit doctors offices; pitch fireworks safety just before July 4th.
5. Pitch when the pitch will be best received: Do not send your pitch to a producer while the show is live on the air, or during the hour it tapes-it will only get buried in his/her inbox. Try to find out the producer’s schedule. For example, the CBS Saturday Early Show's medical producer is off Mondays. Each week early Tuesday morning, I scan the health news headlines and send him a pitch before 10 am. He usually emails back feedback within the hour. Catching a producer at the right time can make all of the difference.

And lastly, don't be shy about pitching. Remember, producers cannot come up with all of the segments on their own. They rely on experts to present them with great ideas.