Students have returned to campus and the fall semester is underway. That means news organizations are particularly interested in education stories. Now is a great time to pitch stories that support your institutional goals and illustrate the value of higher education. 

Local television is one of the most trusted and consumed news sources in the United States. One in three Americans say local TV is their go-to news source, according to a 2022 study by Gallup and the Knight Foundation

Higher ed leaders and their communications teams should view local television stations as top-tier mediums to place stories and build institutional reputation. You shouldn’t wait for local news outlets to call you. Be proactive about building relationships with reporters and news managers and pitching stories that amplify your message while providing valuable information to viewers. 

Our team at RW Jones works with campus partners to shape stories for local and national news. 

Kimberly Holmes-Iverson is a storyteller. She spent two decades as an award-winning broadcast journalist. Now, she teaches campus partners how to work with the media as an RW Jones vice president. 

“Viewers know if you’re sharing your authentic self with them or simply reading a script,” said Holmes-Iverson.“ As a television journalist, I worked hard to pull out the essence of an interviewee’s thoughts and experiences. It’s gratifying to perform similar work at RW Jones. Everyone has a story. We work to ensure individuals focus their message and share what will truly connect with stakeholders.” 

Before running RWJ Studios, Karolyn Pearson traveled the country covering breaking news and feature stories for CBS News. She advises clients to think of what the reporter and photographer need to tell the best possible story. 

“The most engaging broadcast pieces are highly visual and action-packed. Viewers want to feel like they are there in person.” 

Take, for example, a pitch about how your school is reducing food waste on campus. Consider giving the news crew access to each step of the process – from the truck pulling up to the loading dock, to prep work in the kitchen, to students filling their plates at the salad bar. 

If capturing the subjects in action isn’t an option, you can also share photos and video. A story about a breakthrough in research is enhanced by b-roll of the scientist working in the lab and photos and videos of them through the years. These elements can help convey the story of their dedication to this work and its importance. In both cases, letting reporters know they’ll have unique access to visual elements will help attract their attention. 

Three Things to Remember when working with TV journalists

  • Be prepared to communicate your message clearly and concisely. The average local TV story runs just over a minute and a soundbite often clocks in at about 10 seconds. Make sure your interviewees are thinking about their message before the camera is rolling. 
  • Think of the visuals. TV news is about the video. Reporters and photographers are looking for action. A little preplanning and creativity goes a long way when setting up the campus visit for the news crew. 
  • Make the process as easy as possible for everyone involved. TV reporters and photographers are often covering multiple stories a day while juggling breaking news that develops. Think of everything the reporter is going to need to tell their story and try to provide it for them on campus.

Local media companies are owned by a handful of companies these days. That’s an opportunity for your local story to go national. Station groups are often looking for stories to share across stations. A well-produced local piece has potential to reach a national audience. 

RW Jones offers a range of services, from media training to local news pitching, to support our campus partners as they work to advance institutional reputation.  

Matt Gerien is a senior executive vice president at RW Jones. He was a television producer and reporter for over a decade.