We’ve had the opportunity to do a lot of media relations in rural areas throughout Hodges’ history. Here’s one of my favorite examples: For five years, we convinced journalists along the 340-miles of the James River to join students on canoes, kayaks and bateaux’s as part of the James River Expedition, a program that introduced students to Virginia’s history and ecology via week-long trips down America’s Founding River. Luckily, no one fell into the river (on-air). As you can imagine, the James River stretches through several small towns and counties and gave us the opportunity to interact with journalists across the state.
Whether you’re pitching a journalist in New Kent County or New York City, your media relations efforts remain the same: Do your research on the outlet and reporter, and tailor your message.
Here are several of my favorite tips:
Start with a map: Whenever I’m planning outreach around a project, I refer to a map so I can understand the county or town’s proximity to larger cities – where the area’s daily paper and TV outlets will likely be. Personally, I like to print off the map, so I can scribble notes.
Head to the search engine: Next, I search for the county or city and see what outlets appear in Google News. These are likely the main news outlets you’ll target. For back up, do some digging and find the area’s main high school. Search for references to the high school in news outlets.
Don’t forget radio: I’ve always said AM radio was the first Twitter. It’s an excellent source for understanding the community’s viewpoint on issues – and there are often public affairs and interview segments. Do a search for [“county/town name” + news radio] to see if there are any interview-style segments available you can pursue. If there are music stations with drive-time shows, look into if there are interview opportunities or, depending on what you’re pitching, there could be opportunities where the DJ could read on-air to spread your news.
Tune in: The internet has made local pitching so much easier. A majority of TV stations now stream broadcasts – and on most you can rewind the player and view the previous 24-hours of the newscast. Before you pitch, use the streams to find the most appropriate reporter. If you’re holding a morning event, watch the morning broadcast to pinpoint the reporters that are doing live shots out in the field. And if the TV outlet covers a large area of a state, find the specific reporters for each region.
Make time for weeklies: Local weekly newspapers churn out an impressive amount of coverage, but they are often short-staffed. If you’re pitching an event, begin outreach at least 2-3 weeks in advance so newsrooms can prepare for coverage.
Leverage community opportunities: Don’t forget about local church bulletins or community groups like Rotary Clubs. The memberships may be smaller, but it’s a great way to get in front of engaged and informed citizens.
And finally, the most important local media relations tip: Make sure the news is actually local and relevant.
What are your favorite tips? Best of luck pitching.