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Boston PR Pros Go Behind the Scenes at Local NPR Station

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Last Tuesday, I had the opportunity to join the Publicity Club of New England during its tour of Boston’s local public radio station 90.9 WBUR FM at Boston University. I jumped at this opportunity because not only am I an avid listener of all things NPR (check out a post I wrote about This American Life last summer) but also because it was a rare opportunity to get into the mindset of the talented radio journalist Robin Young.

Robin is one of the hosts of Here & Now, a national midday news broadcast. After the PubClub group of about 15 or so area professionals received a brief tour and history of the station, Robin kindly joined us by taking a seat at a fold-out cafeteria table. She explained the coincidences that led her to where she is today and then proceeded to give us Boston PR folks some valuable advice.

200 Pitches. 40 Books. Two-Hour Broadcast.

Robin’s show contains a combination of hard news and feature stories, as well as the occasional book review, because it’s NPR, of course. She estimated that she receives about 200 pitches in her email per day, not to mention nearly 40 physical books in her mailbox. Managing that amount of mail while co-hosting a two-hour live broadcast with interviews and listener call-ins is certainly overwhelming, so she asked that public relations professionals contact her producers – or, if they must, her – in the most concise and targeted way possible.

Personally, I always thought of most NPR programs, particularly news programs such as Here & Now, to be mostly off-limits for the work that I do. However, Robin admitted that Here & Now does feature “water cooler stories” on interesting research or events. She also noted that if a story doesn’t make it in the short window of programming she has every day, it is often featured on the website or blog.

She stressed that the less press releases “feel” like releases, the better. As she put it: “treat it like colleague-to-colleague journalism.” She also stressed that she is drawn to pitches that tie into her previous shows or timely news items, something we at March Communications certainly believe in as well.

A member of the marketing team also clued us in to the multitude of ways a client can get involved with the station beyond just underwriting different programs. Client representatives can also moderate one of the many panels put on by the station, which is an excellent way to get in front of a very engaged and intelligent audience about a topic that is meaningful to your brand. For something like this, one wouldn’t pitch a journalist but instead an events coordinator at the station.

All in all, it was an excellent use of my afternoon, not only because I was able to meet an award-winning journalist, but because I shared the experience with professionals from all over New England who had their own stories to tell as well.

*Article originally appeared on March's blog, PR Nonsense, by Kacey Albertine

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