When you make a change to your county’s public program, it’s always wise to spread the word. You’ve probably pitched stories to local media before, but are you cutting through the noise of all the other stories?
Journalists and producers are being pitched to on a weekly basis, so making yours stand out is key to getting your message out.
For impeccable form with your public recycling outreach, here’s a complete guide for counties to pitching your story to local media:Step 1: Build your target media list
Building a media contact list for your county is the stealthiest secret weapon you can have in your outreach arsenal. If you have the luxury of time, you can build this list gradually, but if you’re new to the job, you might have to start a list from scratch. Make a list of the following:
- Writers and print journalists (local newspaper)
*TIP: Make note of specific journalists following the “beat” that is most relevant to your program
- Local radio hosts or producers
- Local television producers
The more you pitch to these contacts over time, the stronger your relationships will become, and the more receptive they will be to your pitches in the future. Also, be sure to not exhaust these relationships by pitching stories too often or with pitches that are not so spectacular.
Step 2: Draft a compelling press release
Step 3: Prepare your pitch
It’s important to keep in mind that a supplementary story pitch is separate from a press release. The press release is what you send out (typically as an email blast) to all your relevant contacts. Your supplementary pitch is usually a phone call that you make a few days after your press release is sent. Keep this pitch:
- Short and sweet
- Compelling and concise-- hit all of your story’s highlights
Make sure your story is relevant to whoever you are speaking to, which outlet they work for and which medium they produce in. Newspaper can get into the “knitty gritty” of your story, whereas television is highly visual.
Also, don’t shy away from providing journalists with potential “angles” that they can approach your story with (while keeping in mind that they don’t necessarily have to take these angles.) Journalists are editorial gatekeepers and they don’t have to follow everything you feed them-- they will publish the story that they want to tell—the most exciting or informative version of the story you provide them with.
Step 4: Distribute your press release via email to your contacts. One or two days later, pick up the phone and call these same contacts
This “double whammy” approach makes sure your pitch is seen and heard. The press release supplies all of the “meat” of your story (with links and background info) and your supplementary phone pitch makes sure your story stands out.
*TIP: Don’t reach out to everyone, every time
It’s also important to keep in mind that not every story deserves to be pitched to every single person on your media contact list. Reporters and media representatives know one another and they will be less inclined to publish or produce a story that they know someone else is publishing. Pick the key contacts that you want to pitch to and if you don’t get a response from them, you can then reach out to someone new.
Step 5: Follow up
You’ll want to follow up with the reporter if you don’t hear back from them or if you notice your story hasn’t been published yet. Most media outlets prefer email, but also consider giving them a follow up call. Be patient.
a. Remember deadlines
If your story is timely and needs to be published for a certain date, make sure you reach out to journalists in advance. Print journalists can write up a story in a few days whereas television producers need to be contacted much earlier.
b. Make the most of social media and understand the changing media environment
- Blogs: If it makes sense, tap into your community’s group of online bloggers. Ask them to write an article in blogs with topics that align with your program. This site, for example, lists all blogs relevant in Reading, Pennsylvania. Within this list there are several different blogs on a number of different topics.
- Facebook: Ask residents to “like” your Facebook page throughout the year. The “like” button functions like a subscription. When a resident likes your page, they not only opt-in to having your posts appear on their news feeds all year, but op-in to having your content appear on their friend’s feeds too. This can exponentially increase your story’s exposure quickly.
- Follow your local media stations or publications. When the time is right, mention them on Twitter with information about your story using the @sign and then their twitter handle (ie. @washingtonpost). If the content you tweet is interesting these media stations might follow you back and ask for more information
- Get influential local public figures to tweet about your story
- Leverage your county's Twitter page if it has a substantial following
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