Local media coverage…you want it, but do you know how to earn it? Small business owners and nonprofit organizations can sometimes feel as though their story is “too small” to grab the attention of local media outlets like your city’s ABC, NBC, or FOX News channels, but that isn’t true. Local media is a vibrant and vital means of building awareness of your 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization’s programs and services—and even provide opportunities for you to tap into the national coverage that could allow your story to go viral and attract high priority donations.
While there are numerous approaches one can take as they strive to build relationship with the local media, I’ve put together a list of tips for securing local media coverage that even smaller organizations with less than 20 employees can start utilizing immediately. It would be false to say that media relations only requires a smile, “pretty please,” and handing over a news release. You should be warned, some of these tactics will require some footwork, networking, content writing and persistence but if you are diligent in your outreach, you can achieve the desired results.
Getting to Know Local Reporters
One of the best things you can do when establishing a media presence is become familiar with members of the press. No, this does not mean that you should stalk them. It does mean that you should be visible and willing to learn more about their story submission preferences.
How to Build Relationships:
- Pay attention to the media in your local area and make a list of what type of journalists will likely cover you, your company or client. In other words know their beat and the type of stories they write or report.
- Learn the names of the reporters that will likely cover your organization. Nothing is worse than calling a reporter by the wrong name or not having the most accurate information on them. Follow them on Twitter, Instagram or whatever social network they are on and comment on their stories. Show you are interested in them and not just looking to get media coverage.
- Join organizations such as The National Association of Black Journalist (NABJ) or any media affiliate program. This places you among the elite people that may cover your stories. It also helps you stay in tuned with what journalist look for in stories and sometimes allows you to work with them in some capacity.
Delivering News that is Actually Newsworthy
The wonderful thing about local media coverage is that you get to be a voice in the community and build trust in your organization’s mission and programs. Local media coverage is all about creating opportunities to get in front of your target audience, address issues head on, and be a reliable source for a solution. That being said, you must remember that the information you present should actually be “newsworthy,” meaning that it must actually be timely, relevant, and interesting enough to the general public to warrant news coverage. Find the angle. Give clear information and offer more if needed.
For instance, your high school cheerleading squad entering a cheerleading competition may not immediately be tagged as “newsworthy.” In contrast, having your high school cheerleading squad make it to the national cheerleading competition for the first time after overcoming numerous barriers to success is newsworthy. You don’t want to waste a journalist’s time with something that they can’t turn into a human interest or informational story. Be the source your local reporter or editor can trust and follow up with a “thank you” after they share your story.
Getting Your Information to Reporters
Now, this is the part that most people dread. When I consult with clients, one of the most popular questions asked is, “How do we get our fantastic event mentioned in the local news?
The key is being confident and clearly communicating what makes your company stand out from the competition, how you are helping the community, and why your story would interest their local audience. The National Down Syndrome Society has a pretty detailed guide for securing local media coverage that would help any beginner prepare a news release, identify materials they may want in a press kit, and pitch their story to a local media outlet.
For those of you who feel a bit more confident in your ability to write a news release and prepare a pitch package, you should be ready to email your pitch letter, make follow up calls, and send press releases to the journalists and reporters who will most likely cover your story. Call the reporter and briefly talk about your event, product or service. Try to keep your summary to 30 seconds so they won’t feel overwhelmed. Keep in mind that this is what they do for a living, so there is no need to oversell or provide too much information. Make sure you can answer who, what, when, where, how and why. Practice and be ready to dive in when you call. Remember, first impressions are the best impressions.