Archive for the ‘Media Relations’ Category

Interview: Senior News Producer’s Story Pitching Tips

Monday, January 8th, 2018

TV news stations are focusing more on social media than on-air newscasts. So what’s your story’s social media component?

Denver Senior News Producer Greg Deffenbaugh, right, worked with The Flip Side Communications President Keith Yaskin, left, when Keith was an investigative reporter at the Fox Television station in Phoenix.

When Greg Deffenbaugh first entered the field of broadcast journalism a decade ago, television stations followed the traditional format of reporting the news of the day to viewers.

Today, the focus is on digital, with viewers’ opinions and concerns playing a major role, says the KDVR-TV senior news producer in Denver.

“It’s definitely changed in the past 10 years since I’ve gotten into the business,” Deffenbaugh says.

The typical newscast used to consist of two anchors who would sit at a desk and talk to a reporter. Now there’s more of an emphasis on how to tell the story differently, through a touch screen, using social media examples on a huge monitor or telling the story through a video.

“I was told once by a news director that they want to see it, say it, show it.”

One new trend with some stations, is allowing viewers to comment on stories as stations report them, with their comments scrolling on the screen during the newscast. Deffenbaugh says that owners of media companies feel that getting viewers involved in the newscast provides a way to increase interaction between the anchors and their audience.

One reason for this effort is that traditional newscasts don’t exist anymore, he said. If there’s breaking news, the station often goes live on Facebook rather than devote the whole newscast to that news. For instance, when there’s a big storm, the station will dedicate one newsroom member to cover the storm and that person will stay on Facebook for hours, flipping between live shots and talking to reporters. “There’s more of a focus on social media and our digital products than over the air.”

One reason for this is that social media allows a news team to report on a story nonstop without any commercial breaks. “It’s not just us telling information, it’s us having a conversation,” Deffenbaugh says. In the early days of social media, two or three staffers would post news stories online, but now the station has five team members dedicated to online coverage, and everyone in the newsroom, including producers, contribute to social media.

“There’s a whole strategy – not only posting stories, but engagement and telling stories differently, and being involved with the community. That plays a big part in knowing who your audience is.”

Win weather, win the day

Deffenbaugh credits weather as “a major key to our success.” The Denver station has six meteorologists on its staff, four of them are certified. In severe weather markets, viewers count on the station to report what their morning commute will be like, what to wear that day and how to keep their family safe when dangerous storms approach, he says. Research shows that viewers for local television stations tune in for weather reports, so Deffenbaugh explores new ways to tell the story differently than competing stations in the market. He works with his managers and team of meteorologists to give viewers the latest information and how it will impact them in the coming hours, all while focusing on making sure they keep a digital perspective in mind.

‘Not the same business’
The challenging part of the broadcast news industry is that it is always changing. Reporters in many markets are pitching stories, shooting those stories and also editing them. We call them multimedia journalists. “They can do everything, and they are a real asset to the newsroom,” Deffenbaugh says.

From a producing perspective, it can be challenging when utilizing multimedia journalists during breaking news. “They need to be able to go live, and most of the time they don’t have a photographer with them, so getting them the tools they need is always in the back of my head.”

This emphasis on social media and the changed definition of news has led many of his former co-workers from his first television markets to leave broadcast journalism, Deffenbaugh says. “It’s not the same business we went into.” When “you have a multimedia journalist background, you can use your skills to go into so many things.” Many have gone into public relations or started their own consulting firm or video production companies.

Part of this reason is also the grueling schedule, which often includes 10-hour days and being on call “basically all the time” even though there is an on-call schedule.

“I feel a lot of people don’t know what they are signing up for when they decide to go into broadcast television and many do move on because of the commitment does take. But at the same time, if you’re passionate about it like I am –  I live and breathe this stuff – you’re going to excel because there are so many people who say it’s not for me.”

-Leisah Woldoff


Broadcast journalism

Preparing For A Media Crisis

Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

Preparing For A Media Crisis

10 Tips To Lose Credibility With News Media

Thursday, March 2nd, 2017


  1. Make major shifts in key messages within short periods of time.
  2. Make statements that don’t match actions.
  3. Prohibit certain news outlets from attending media briefings.
  4. Ask reporters to profile your organization without providing a story angle.
  5. Answer questions before ensuring leadership is on the same page and then backtrack.
  6. Hammer away at opponents’ actions and then downplay allies’ similar conduct.
  7. Act as if important issues don’t matter.
  8. Share misleading soundbites.
  9. Blame the media.
  10. Lie.


C-SPAN Might Make You A Smarter Citizen

Thursday, January 19th, 2017


My mom asked me how she might ensure she is watching and reading the most objective news. I asked her to list the sources that provide her information. Media outlets that tend to reinforce her political views dominated her list. Understanding this is the first step for her and others. People often label as “objective” the news that leans toward their positions.

My first recommendation for my mom was to watch and read a news outlet known for providing points-of-view vastly different from her opinions. This could provide balance. She crinkled her face and implied watching that particular outlet would be the equivalent of forcing yourself to eat a meal you detested.

My second recommendation was the better one: Watch C-SPAN. Watching President Obama’s last news conference as president reinforced my advice. I didn’t watch the news conference live. I watched it in its entirety later on

C-SPAN offers us the option of viewing the news without filters. You can hear the questions that people are answering. You can hear complete answers instead of soundbites. After a news conference, we don’t need to hear analysis from talking heads. Take it from a former television reporter: Many journalists are not smarter than us. They often aren’t better educated. You don’t need talking heads to help you understand what you just heard.

Yes, many issues are complex. Perhaps you don’t fully understand the issue. Maybe you are skeptical the answers you hear reflect truth or facts. Then engage in your own form of fact checking.

In addition, you learn a lot watching an unfiltered version of the news. You can hear all the words and answers and not only the ones that journalists or talking heads determined are most important.

True, hearing talking heads who mostly agree with you might make you feel better about controversies in our society. But that path won’t necessarily make you smarter. Be strong enough to challenge your own ideologies.

You just might want to turn C-SPAN off before the station starts taking phone calls. That’s when you might again hear talking heads … not from the networks but from your neighbors.

Good, Bad And Ugly Of President-Elect Trump’s News Conference

Wednesday, January 11th, 2017


The Good

  • Delivery. President-elect Donald Trump speaks with confidence. He talks conversationally with reporters the same way he might talk with friends or strangers he just met. Generally, he doesn’t memorize lines. He fluctuates his voice and uses his hands for emphasis, giving his delivery an extra punch.
  • Stories. To reiterate his efforts to avoid conflicts of interest in business, Trump shared a story of a friend who recently offered him a $2 billion deal which he turned down.
  • Preparation. He was prepared to handle questions about conflicts of interest and the Trump Organization. He brought a second person to the podium to detail the steps he is taking to avoid these conflicts of interest.
  • Props. To demonstrate his efforts to avoid conflicts of interest, a table stacked with folders of documents was by his side. Props and similar visuals are an excellent way to drive home key messages.

The Bad

  • Soundbites. You should consider soundbites and quotes that stand out and help audiences relate to complicated issues. But some of Trump’s soundbites went too far. He said, “I will be the greatest jobs producer that God ever created.” Describing his incoming administration, he said, “It’s a movement like the world has never seen before.” Such over-the-top statements can erode credibility.

The President-elect also said, “Obamacare is a complete and total disaster.” This is not true. Healthcare reform has provided health care to more than 20 million people. The New York Times reported health care costs are rising at a slower rate under health care reform. People continue to sign up for health care under the Affordable Care Act. These are not the elements of a disaster. These are the elements of a public policy that needs fixing. But calling health care reform a “complete and total disaster” reinforces politics as usual where each side insists on viewing policy as black or white or in extremes. Real life includes large shades of gray.

  • Defensiveness. When talking about Russia and Vladimir Putin, he said, “Do you honestly believe that Hillary would be tougher on Putin than me? Does anybody in this room really believe that? Give me a break.” The election is over. Trump shouldn’t continue to debate his qualifications compared to Hillary Clinton.

Trump raised questions about the accuracy of some reporting. This is fine. He also praised some media. However, he continued to mock the mainstream media. Attacking the media in general will please your supporters but not win over others.

  • Sarcasm. Trump sometimes addressed members of the media with sarcasm. Sarcasm might work on TV when you can hear him and see his body language. But sarcasm often doesn’t work in print. People who might read his sarcastic comments might misinterpret them.
  • Nastiness. Reporters can be nasty. However, they cannot force you to be nasty. Trump engages in verbal jousting with reporters, sometimes being condescending toward certain media outlets.
  • Evasiveness. The media asked some questions up to three times because they didn’t feel Trump fully answered the question the first two times. For example, he didn’t answer a question about how negative reports about Russia would impact his relationship with Putin. He didn’t answer if he will undo steps President Obama took to punish the Russians. He also offered no details on his plan to replace health care reform.
  • Speculation. He speculated about how certain information got out to the public and the media. Stick to the facts. Stick to what you know. Don’t speculate.

The Ugly

  • Social media. A reporter asked him about his Tweet earlier in the day that read, “Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to “leak” into the public. One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?” Nazi Germany is responsible for the murders of more than six million people. Such comparisons are very inappropriate.

10 Things I Miss Most About Covering Election Nights As A Reporter

Tuesday, November 8th, 2016

Media Relations:  10 Things I Miss Most About Covering Election Nights

  • Technical problems we all secretly predicted
  • Watching the carefully thought out newsroom election night game plan quickly disintegrate
  • Being assigned to a new candidate at the last second after conducting weeks of research on another one
  • Wondering what genius decided to assign several crews to work under tight deadlines on the same laptop editor
  • Watching normally cordial co-workers turn on each other when things really start to fall apart
  • Trying to be first on air with a winning candidate only to learn the station has no plans to take me live until next week
  • The growing whispers that the others stations whipped us
  • Trying to figure out how to get 20 employees at a hotel convention room back to the station in only two vehicles
  • Feeling lucky no one chose me to stake out until 1am the big losing candidate hiding behind a closed door
  • Getting a memo in my mailbox praising the night’s efforts as if all went perfectly as planned

Presidential Debate’s 7 Lessons For Business Leaders

Wednesday, October 19th, 2016


  1. Share stories. Hillary Clinton shared the story of a Las Vegas girl to relay the candidate’s position on immigration. Share personal stories to humanize and effectively illustrate your key messages especially when they are complex.
  2. Don’t pivot. When asked about information from leaked emails, Clinton awkwardly pivoted the focus of her answer to criticism about Russia. It’s OK to answer a question and bridge to a different key message, but doing so in a clunky fashion may appear that you’re trying too hard to change the subject. When the topic was about Donald Trump and women, he awkwardly pivoted to discussing the controversy surrounding Clinton’s emails as secretary of state. And when the moderator asked Clinton about ethical questions regarding the Clinton Foundation, she instead talked about the foundation’s accomplishments.
  3. Prepare sizzling soundbites. Clinton characterized Trump as a potential puppet of Russia’s leader. Don’t be nasty, but prepare ahead of time quotes or memorable soundbites to package your message. On two occasions, Clinton said Trump was hosting “Celebrity Apprentice” at the same time she was fighting the country’s enemies.
  4. Watch body language. We do not recommend that business leaders adopt Trump’s body language. Body language is often half the battle to effectively sharing your message
  5. Don’t attack the media. Trump referred to the media as corrupt. Criticizing the media in general may please your supporters, but it won’t effectively broaden your reach or conceal you from criticism.
  6. Don’t proactively bring attention to your controversies. Trump called Clinton “such a nasty woman” while he faces harsh criticism about his treatment of women. Some people might consider it a sizzling soundbite, but it’s not if it ultimately reinforces a negative image.
  7. Finish strong. The moderator gave both candidates the chance to end the debate by addressing the key messages of their choice. When reporters end interviews by asking if you want to add anything, take the opportunity to hit a home run.

Handling A Reporter’s Mistakes and Inaccuracy

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

Public Relations

A media outlet’s writer contacted us, thanking us for helping with one of our clients’ stories. She said the number of companies attempting to include their products in the story got competitive and congratulated us for making the cut.

We thanked her for including our client in the story. However, we asked her if she wanted an opportunity to correct information in the story about our client before we posted the story on social media. The mistakes included:

  • typos
  • incorrectly referring to a product by the company name itself
  • a capitalization problem with the product’s name

When I worked as a television reporter, I learned reporters, companies and PR pros can misunderstand each other despite their best efforts. Companies and PR pros often speak an industry lingo. Reporters without regular beats are attempting to understand an industry they aren’t particularly familiar with. Because of this, I, after an interview, often double checked a story’s most important facts with a company or its representative. Most reporters don’t take this step just prior to sharing their stories with producers and editors. Some reporters may misinterpret later checking the facts with sources as censorship. However, I simply checked facts. I didn’t allow sources an opportunity to sugar coat their words and take out important information.

We recommend companies, after providing media interviews, send a follow-up email to reporters which politely reviews the key points discussed. This is our attempt to help improve reporter accuracy, which too often is absent from journalism. It is not uncommon for us to ask reporters to correct their mistakes after their outlets publish stories. We aren’t referring to subjective corrections that would place our clients in a more positive light. We are referring to clearly incorrect information such as wrong job titles or mistakes about someone’s education.

People may assume reporters are loathe to acknowledge mistakes and take steps to then correct them. However, we believe every reporter we contacted about mistakes moved forward and corrected them. In our latest example, we needed to email the writer twice before hearing back about our request for corrections. And correcting the mistakes included about 12 emails back and forth. Ultimately, most reporters don’t want errors to sully their reputations, especially if those mistakes might indicate a lack of attention to detail. And we infer clients appreciate a PR pro’s efforts to a greater extent when the final piece isn’t tattered with mistakes. Audiences may not recognize these types of errors. But for clients, every word often counts. We can’t always expect objectivity. However, we should expect accuracy.

10 Reasons You Better Not Blow Off Local News

Tuesday, May 10th, 2016

Local News

Some brands reach a point when their media relations expectations are more demanding. The brands value national news coverage and their marketing forecasts no longer place a priority on their region’s local media. The organizations decline to make themselves as readily available to local media that they now characterize as small potatoes. However, here are our top 10 reasons brands better not blow off interview requests from local media:

  1. Today’s local TV news producers are often your best contacts on the national level after they jump a couple of new jobs a few years down the road.
  2. Ignoring the local news is like presidential candidates ignoring their core constituencies, the people who brought you to power and will support you when times are tougher.
  3. You would rather stumble on the local news and improve before appearing before the entire country.
  4. Local news appearances allow you to build a library of media experience, which national news producers might check out before sitting you before a camera.
  5. If you can survive some of the wacky technical problems the local news presents, you can handle just about any on-air issue.
  6. You never know what big shots are visiting town, seeing you on the local news and considering how your services might help.
  7. The national news is often nothing more than identifying good local stories and retelling them with higher production value.
  8. The local news still offers one of the quickest ways to reach thousands, if not tens of thousands of people.
  9. It’s not uncommon for people who can’t get on the news to pay for one of those on-air segments that look like the news. So don’t pass up an invitation to take part in the real thing and earn some instant credibility.
  10. The reason parodies of local news, such as the one in “Horrible Bosses 2,” are so funny is because they are so spot on. So seize the day and continue to enjoy a behind-the-scenes experience even if you consider it sensational and superficial.

10 White Lies Journalists Tell PR People

Thursday, October 8th, 2015

Public Relations

Many journalists, despite their ability to ask tough questions, don’t like to utter the words “no” or “I’m not interested” to a PR pro pitching a story. Reporters often prefer to ignore emails and rationalize they are too busy to answer them anyway. (This rationalization is frequently made prior to ducking into a back room to spend time to complain about management.) However, if you press a journalist to provide you with a straight up yes or no (One reporter took 58 days to give me such an answer.), don’t be surprised to hear one of the following responses that isn’t entirely true. The real story is in italics.

  1. I’m too focused on another project to cover your story but circle back with me later. (But if you actually remember to follow up, don’t expect a response.)
  2. I’ve been swamped, which is why I haven’t covered the story you pitched (even though I work in a small, slow news market which covers stories about stolen bicycles).
  3. The shoot went great. (I’m uncomfortable telling you this face to face, but I’ll tell the producer this sucked.)
  4. Email me a summary of your pitch (and when you call back in a week, I still won’t have read it).
  5. I’m definitely interested in the story but I can’t cover it for a while (and by that time, I will have accepted a new job elsewhere).
  6. I will pass your idea on to the producer of a more suitable newscast (which means I will fulfill my responsibility by shooting off a quick, bland email without walking a few feet to the other producer’s desk or providing a passionate argument on why to cover the idea).
  7. I will pass this idea on to the assignment desk for consideration (which means hell no!).
  8. Your idea sounds like too much of a commercial (although you could likely find 10 recent examples on our newscasts that resemble commercials).
  9. I like the idea but the producers didn’t (which means I didn’t love the idea enough myself and didn’t fight for it during the editorial meeting, but pitching it fulfilled my quota of bringing daily ideas to the table).
  10. If you find a local example, we’ll cover the story (and if you actually shock me by finding someone local for me to interview, I’ll dodge your emails).