There seems to be a lot of discussion about books for helping you get on the local news, like Howard Greenstein’s Inc. Now I haven’t read any , books on this subject because I’m here to tell you that reading a book about selling your story to the news is overkill… unless of course, it’s a really short book.
In 10+ years of working directly with local news directors & reporters I’ve seen a lot of good stories passed over, a lot of bad stories reported over and over and over and a lot of stories make it on air just because the News Director thought “I like it.” There were even occasions where a reporter just kept bringing up a story idea and wouldn’t let it go until management needed a story to fill time. The bottom line is, whether we’re talking about CNN or your local affiliate, news folks are people too and their busy – just ask them. It’s true, though, with fewer and fewer available resources, increasing pressure from social media and more demand from management to “fill time” news folks are busier than ever. What does this means for you? They’re more open minded than ever to what you have to say!
So whether you’re story is good or bad, if you follow these tips you’ll exponentially increase your chances of ending up on the news. It’s not easy but this is how it’s done.
First: Answer one of these questions directly:
- Why do I care? This is a key question news folks ask FOR the viewer. If you provide a compelling answer as to why “average Joe” cares about your story, you are well on your way to getting on the news.
- “Why average Joe care right now?” The answer to this question could get you on the news tomorrow or make you wait until a slow news day.
- Who does it affect? – news folks are looking for either “mass appeal” or “extreme emotion” …or both.
Tell the story for the reporter. Don’t write it and email it to them, but make sure you have all the leg work done already so you can give them all the pieces they need to put the story together. Google “how to write a news story” to get familiar with the formula, then practice writing headlines that sum up your story in a broadly impact-ful way. Once you get a great headline you’ll want to use it in the subject line of your emails to reporters and at the top of any press releases.
Be ready to provide experts (or witnesses, or donors, or whatever) and have an idea of what they are willing to say on camera ahead of time. The more easily accessible and camera ready your experts are, the better your chances.
Be pleasantly relentless. Target a reporter first via email and follow up on the phone. Try to get some feedback on whether they like the story or not. Why aren’t they excited about it? What’s missing? Most reporters aren’t getting as many viewer calls as you think. If it doesn’t seem like you’re getting anywhere shoot an email and a fax to the assignment desk. Yes, a fax. Once you’ve done that, call often. If not everyday, call every other day and keep checking in with updates. The more timely your story, the more often you should call! Ask for feedback!
Fluff story? Target a weekend anchor or reporter.
Health, Medical, Family, Safety stories… These types of stories are ideal for pitching to local news operations! The stronger the claim, the better the story! Ideally you want to save lives, prevent theft, save people time or money, show people a new or better way to do something. You get the idea.
Maybe you’re saying to yourself, Wait! Traditional media is dead! …or But what about PR firms? What about social media? Well, no traditional media is not dead. While it’s true they have… uh… “problems” (to say the least) their reach is still largely unmatched and great for brand recognition and a myriad of other strategies. If you have healthy budget and no time for “this stuff” then you should consider getting a PR firm, a media buyer or consider approaching television stations or newspapers yourself regarding ad buys. Trevin Wecks talks more about this in his post Great Deals in Advertising, which I highly recommend.
I’ll be putting some thought into using social media to get your story picked up by news folks and let you know what I come up with… if you have any ideas, please add them in the comments or let me know if you’d like to guest post on the subject!
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News camera crew photo from Flickr by ratsinis
Witness on television from Flickr by Ben Brown
Richard Bouchez is a certified Inbound Marketing professional specializing in Social Media Marketing & New Media content development. Richard’s web, audio & video work has been honored with Emmy, Promax & CBA awards.