Friday, September 24, 2010

Rounds calls you probably have never made

Nothing is more boring, tedious, and lacking in imagination than rounds calls. You call the usual sources... police, fire, hospitals...and ask if anything has happened recently. And you can tell from the tone of the person answering the call that they're as thrilled to hear from you as you are to make the call.

For those of you assigned to a beat (which seems to be a dying facet of this business for some bizarre reason) you have a list of contacts to check on a regular basis. But if you're stuck for a story, there are a whole host of public relations people out there just dying for coverage on any number of topics.

The problem is, their press releases often end up in the trash after being sorted out by the Assignment Editor, a newsroom secretary or an intern.

Nothing works like a personal touch. When you want stories, don't wait for them to come to you.

I used to have a great relationship with a terrific PR guy who worked for the school system. Anytime I was stuck for a story, I'd call him. He'd always have a list of interesting stuff going on. Some school was going on a unique field trip, another had a physics teacher that was going to catapult watermelons, or some kid genius was taking his SATs at the age of 12. The guy always came through for me.

There are numerous PR people in every market like that guy. People who work in interesting situations that have good stories...and many times they don't send out press releases about them. It is often up to you to take the initiative to create a relationship. After a while, the PR person will get an idea of what you're looking for, and give you a call when something interesting is going on.

So drag out the yellow pages and create your own rounds call list. Every company, every organization is filled with people who have interesting stories. Don't just assume that because a business does something dull that they don't have great tales to tell. I once did a story about a letter carrier who was a champion dancer and competed nationally. Behind every seemingly boring task often lies an interesting story.

The more people you call, the more relationships you create... and the more good stories you find.

1 comment:

turdpolisher said...

As an intern, I got stuck on the Beat Call beat -- phoning all the local cop shops at the beginning and end of every shift. It got boring real quick, so I began making up all sorts of outrageous crimes to ask each operator about. Lynchings, streaking incidents, mass drowinings in Dry Creek (an actual town in north La.)

Needless to say, the operators and I had a pretty good laugh. It got to the point that they actually started calling me when things happened. It's all about building relationships.