Want your story on WBAL-TV? One of your biggest challenges is getting the attention Jessica Rahn, the station’s guardian assignment editor who says she’s not afraid of anyone, has a backlog of 6,000 emails and will take your phone calls in the afternoons, please.
Speaking to a packed room of PR professionals at the station’s Television Hill headquarters in Baltimore recently, Rahn, left, and fellow news leaders shared tips for scoring air time on WBAL-TV, WBAL-AM 1090 and WIYY-FM “98 Rock.” The session co-hosted by the Baltimore Public Relations Council and the Maryland Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.
Rahn said she’s looking to develop go-to experts with fresh ideas, so reach out if you represent someone who can shed light on a topic in the news. While expertise and on-air presence is important, the ability to get in front of a camera with minimal advance warning is even more so. “It’s all about availability,” she said.
Other tips – tie to a national news event (such as a local health expert to talk about measles vaccinations); don’t pitch too early – a week or so is plenty (”I don’t even know what I’m doing two hours from now,” says Rahn); and make sure your spokesperson is comfortable in front of a camera and that you can deliver a strong visual. If it’s simply “talking heads” then it’s likely more of a newspaper story. Rahn appreciates the PR pros who submit series of news blurbs/story summaries that meet her requirements and that they can pull off in the coming week.
The group also heard from recently promoted news director Tim Tunison and morning co-anchors Jason Newton and Mindy Basara who are interested in topical press releases “that speak to our daily lives” and that they can talk about between news stories. Think surveys, National Cookie Day and similar lifestyle topics.
The best way to contact WBAL-TV is via a single email address [firstname.lastname@example.org] that reaches every newsroom decision-maker. Telephone calls to Rahn are OK — in the afternoon.
Dan Joerres, president and general manager, welcomed the communicators to the NBC-affiliate’s second floor meeting room and immediately brought up the Brian Williams issue. If a WBAL reporter or anchor confused fantasy with the facts “that person would not work here,” Joerres said. “That’s serious stuff…there’s no gray area.”
Cary L. Pahigian, president and general manager of WBAL-AM and WIYY-FM “98 Rock,” also addressed the audience about the radio side of the house and the station’s team of veteran reporters and anchors. He later issued a press release from the station announcing that Rick Strauss has been named program director for WIYY-FM. The move marks a return to WIYY for Strauss, who served as the station’s Program Director from 1994 to 2002. Strauss is set to begin on February 24th. Strauss re-joins WIYY after more than ten years at iHeartMedia (formerly Clear Channel Media + Entertainment) in New York, where he most recently served on the National Programming Platforms team as Senior Director of Digital Music Programming, developing content for iHeartRadio.
WIYY-FM, WBAL NewsRadio 1090 and WBAL-TV are owned by Hearst Television, Inc.