This may be oversimplifying things, but this is critically important to understand if you want to successfully pitch a journalist: Television needs pictures; radio needs sound. “Yeah, yeah,” you say, “My CEO has a head and he can talk, so there! Pictures and sound!” Nope, doesn’t cut it. It’s boring.

TV Needs Pictures

On television, the best reporting is when journalists can visually explain how something works. Someone just talking about how it works is called Radio. So if you want your product to be on television, tell the reporter what visuals you can offer. And “Nifty shots of our product box” don’t cut it. Neither do still photographs.

Here’s an example: A printer manufacturer some years ago had unveiled a new advance in inkjet printing that could one day put a combination scanner/printer on anything from a cellphone to your watch. I was interested right away because this was somewhat revolutionary – it’s new, not being done anywhere else, and had a fun Jetsons?esque feel to it. But the only visuals the company could offer was their p.r. manager (not even a company executive!) in talking?head mode.

So I said no. Which I didn’t want to, because I really wanted to cover the story, except it just would not have passed the bar of making it easy for people to understand visually. A couple of weeks later, they came back with a cardboard model that visually demonstrated how their inkjets worked and how they were able to shrink it down. The story ran nationally a week later. I understand their web site was down for a couple of hours from the traffic.

Radio Needs Sound

Same goes for radio. I rarely cover a story that doesn’t involve sound. Even a simple story like when I interviewed Darren for a piece about the Mozilla community included sound of the geek dinner, people talking, keyboards typing, and so on. A story I did recently on e?publishing had the sound of an author reading to a small crowd and the beeping of her PDA.

I hope you’re noticing that you don’t need to blow your budget to come up with visuals (for TV) and sound (for radio). In fact, you often don’t even need to come up with the actual sound at all, just tell us what sound is available – if the story is compelling enough, I’m more than happy to go and record the sound myself. But you do need to tell us in your pitch how you think sound and visuals can play a role.

One More Thing

A minor point, but a sticky one for some journalists. Don’t confuse “the press” with “the media.” “Press” refers to the print medium (newspapers and magazines) only – i.e. a printing press. “Media” is a much more inclusive and welcome term, especially among electronic journalists. I know a couple of TV producers who will throw a news release in the garbage without reading it if it’s called a Press Release. “Hmph,” they’ll mutter to nobody in particularly, “I guess it’s not for us.” I’m not quite that harsh, but many are, so best to use News Release or Media Release.

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Note: This series was originally written and published in 2008.