Local media offers a great opportunity for local health departments and community partners to generate media coverage. The fact that public health directly affects the community creates a natural news hook. Many public health stories also carry human-interest angles that are ready-made for local news placements. Below are a few tips to help generate local media coverage:
Know your media.
Read, watch, or listen to targeted media outlets ahead of time. Notice which reporters cover health. Be sure your issue fits with the reporter's "beat." If you are not sure which reporters cover your issue, contact the assignment editor. At large newspapers, there are assignment editors for different sections of the paper (e.g., Health, Metro, Business).
Help your newspapers localize stories about public health.
Provide news outlets with background on your organization's efforts and, if appropriate, make someone within your group, or a member of the community served by your organization, available as an expert on public health issues. For example, when news of the flu vaccine shortage hit, NACCHO sent out an announcement offering its executive director as an expert to speak to the media (see example in Template Section).
Reach out to local television and radio reporters.
Offer to assist broadcast coverage of your issues by providing background information, experts, or community members who illustrate local public health (see Connecting with Local Radio and TV Outlets).
Arrange general information briefings for local reporters.
Schedule time to meet with reporters that cover beats related to the work of the local health department. Brief them on upcoming activities and relevant issues, such as an upcoming flu season. Maintain regular contact with reporters and provide periodic updates on scheduled events and local health department achievements.
Place an op-ed or monthly column in your local daily or neighborhood papers.
(See Writing an Opinion Editorial.)
Feature local citizens.
If local citizens play a feature role in your work, emphasize their roles to local newspapers and television and radio news programs.
Consider alternative media to access hard-to-reach populations.
Pursue placements in foreign language newspapers and distribute brochures and leaflets in community centers, churches, and hospitals—wherever people with an interest in your story gather.
Maximize use of all available communications channels.
Local health departments routinely produce newsletters and maintain Web sites. Community organizations, neighborhood associations, and parents' groups often publish newsletters for their members. Use these outlets to raise awareness of local efforts.
Investigate regional or state e-mail mailing lists.
E-mail distribution lists that commonly discuss issues related to your work and include the address of your Web site. Post your Web site address, information about your local health department achievements, and upcoming events to the online forums you identify.