How to Get Your Sports Story or Guest on ESPN, Boomer and Carton, and USA Today
Photo via John Martinez Pavliga
You have just the right story/client to pitch to ESPN.com or WFAN, SNY, or USA Today, but just who is the correct person to contact and what is the best way to reach that person? These questions and other issues were covered at the New York Chapter of the Public Relations Society panel that featured influential sports media representatives from ESPN.COM, SNY and WFAN-AM, and others as they gave an inside look at their sports beats and how to best work with them.
Jeane Willis, SNYS
Jim O’Connell, Associated Press
Before you approach Lynn Hoppes of ESPN.com page 2 with your pitch it is best to think, “What will be the benefit to ESPN.com page 2 with my story/guest?” Lynn wants exclusives (not a satellite feed) where he can frame the story/news/feature to his audience. Since there are limited staff and time resources Lynn cannot be everywhere, so he won’t cover the same stories everyone else is covering. To get his attention when sending an email make sure you have the right person/show that would be best for your guest/story at ESPN. Provide all the facts and specifics of your event, and finally, if you are following up with Lynn don’t ask him when your story is going to run as he may not have control of the lineup of the show. You can follow Lynn on Twitter @lhoppes.
Al Dukes, producer of the “Boomer and Carton in the Morning” sports radio show on 660 WFAN-AM will take your call/email and book your guest if you have someone such as Joe Montana (or a current/former NFL player or hall of famer). For story sources Al looks at sports blogs as well as what WFAN listeners are saying on Twitter and Facebook. The odd thing Al finds is the perception of the audience reach of the radio show: He finds that guests will pass on Boomer and Carton and prefer to do television even though some of the television shows are in a small market with a smaller audience and “Boomer and Carton in the Morning” is in the number one market in the country.
Jeanne Willis of SNY felt that email is the best way a PR person can approach her with ideas by showing your knowledge of SNY programming, who is on those programs and why your story/guest would be a great fit. To have your email get her attention include in the subject line: who you have, what they are plugging, and when they are available. A recurring pet peeve for Jeanne lately has been when interviews are done via satellite, and backgrounds of these feeds are filled with the sponsors name/logo. Unless you are advertising on SNY, the interview segment will not be used. Jeanne suggests a one week lead time and specific days/times your guest will be available. When following up with Jeanne, if you do not hear from her after the second e-mail she is most likely not interested in your pitch.
Barry Janoff of Big Lead Sports covers the business of sports such as marketing deals with sports teams, stadium naming rights, etc. For Barry to break a big story it would be something such as the Farmers Insurance $400 million deal. The best way that a PR person to approach him is to know what he covers for Big Lead Sports, and Barry would like an interview with your sports clients, not just covering an appearance. For story ideas Barry uses Twitter, and you can follow Barry: @barryjanoff.
For Michael McCarthy, Sports Business Reporter/Sports Columnist – USA Today, the best way for a PR person to approach him is via e-mail and follow up with a phone call. Mike prefers exclusives and as with many other newspapers, being able to interview athletes which the video is posted on the USA Today website. He gets story sources from Twitter. It helps to let Mike know in advance if you will allow/not allow access to athletes/coaches as he does not have the time and resources to cover every event. You can follow Michael McCarthy on Twitter: @MMcCarthyUSAT.
For a veteran in the business Jim O’Connell of Associated Press noted that information/news goes out instantly today when only a few years prior to the internet he was able to hold on to a news story for a week but now can no longer do that since someone else may get the story out before him. As a sports correspondant for the Associated Press Jim tells a prospective coach/athlete when they give access to Jim, his/her story/interview will be going out to 1300 newspapers and access to a large nationwide audience. Jim also spoke about his time covering the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and having to get more details after a bomb exploded. After running around all night and coming up with nothing, he stopped to take a break near a restaurant when police cars descended on a bank of phones and police officers roped off the area. After speaking with the police it was discovered that this bank of phones were used to call in the bomb, and he broke that story for AP.
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