As national news develops, such as a flu vaccine shortage, offer reporters a unique and relevant local story. Local coverage represents a significant opportunity for you to garner media attention on important issues.
Do your homework.
- Find out which newspaper section covers stories like yours and identify the editor(s) for that section.
- Find out how much lead time the newspaper needs to run a story and schedule your meeting before that deadline.
- Research the newspaper's online site or library to determine if it has published stories on the current topic. Editors will appreciate that you know what the paper already has reported on these issues.
- Before the meeting, sit down with a colleague and rehearse your pitch. Include any community partners who will join you in the meeting.
At the meeting.
Keep your message simple and concise. Try to keep your introduction to three or four sentences that will tell the editor why he should be interested in publishing your story. Give more details as the conversation continues but think of your opening as a way to heighten interest.
After you have made your initial introduction, be prepared to answer more specific questions. Is there a local hook? An upcoming related event? Have a list of community groups who can provide background and interviews for reporters to help localize the issue. The more resources you can offer, the better your chances of success.
Aim at the right person.
Do a little homework—which reporter actually covers your issue? Who has written positive pieces in the past? Whether you are pitching an innovative program or stressing an important public health issue to the local TV news, you can call the assignment editor or the news desk: they will tell you who is appropriate.
Get to the point.
A pitch that clearly frames the story idea in the first or second sentence is infinitely more welcome than one that tiptoes up to it, or worse, buries it under paragraphs of phrase-making. In almost every case, reporters know instantly whether an idea will work for them.
Remember: It's a pitch, not a monologue.
Give the reporters enough information up front to pique their interest, but let them interject with questions before too long, certainly within the first 30 seconds.
Give them time. Be a resource.
The smartest pitchers tell reporters about things that are happening months before the program is launched or the event takes place. This allows reporters and sources to work together to figure out when and how a piece would work for a newspaper.
The easier you make it for the reporters, the better the chances they will bite. Be ready to immediately provide quotes, background, and interview opportunities. One strategy is to send a pitch note or announcement
to your local media offering yourself as an expert on the issue at hand. The reporter/pitcher relationship is really pretty simple: You want the reporter to cover your story; in exchange, you help make the reporter's job easier.