Do you watch your local news and read your local paper? If not, we suggest you start. As the old saying goes, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” This can be very true when it comes to getting your story out through the local media. It’s not as though you need to have a best friend on the inside, but if you familiarize yourself with your local programs and publications — and some of the people who work on them — you may be able to connect with one of those people in a way that will help get your story noticed.
Find out who the the assignment editors are…..
Assignment editors are part of the newsroom management team. They select and develop stories to be covered by reporters. On one hand, assignment editors are buried every day by emails, press releases and phone calls. On the other hand, they’re always on the lookout for good stories). To learn the names of the assignment editors at your local news organizations, make a quick call to the newsroom and ask.
Make note of who the beat reporters are…..
Most newspapers and many TV stations have “beat reporters” — reporters who are assigned to cover a certain type of story such as crime, consumer, investigative or feature. If your story falls into a category that’s regularly covered by a certain reporter, you may have great success pitching your story directly to that person.
Learn what you can about reporters’ personal lives…..
Obviously, we don’t recommend stalking anyone. But sometimes you can learn a bit about the personal lives of local reporters and anchors, especially radio and TV reporters, by watching them regularly and following them on social media. While reporters are supposed to remain neutral and unbiased — and are not supposed to push their personal agendas on the news — they are none-the-less human. Reporters who are parents are naturally going to be drawn to stories about things like education, bullying, children’s health and nutrition, etc. If your story has to do with animals, and you know a reporter who posts a lot of pictures of his or her dog or cat on Facebook or Instagram, that may very well be your “in”.
Maine‘s WCSH6 Morning News Anchor, Sharon Rose Vaznis is supporting a cause.
Pitching your story to a particular “target”…..
Once you have identified the reporter you think might be interested in your story, here are tips to increase your chances of getting their attention:
- Call and email. If you’re going for the personal approach, you might want to forgo the more formal press release, and instead go for the phone call and/or email. Start with one and follow-up with the other. Remember, reporters a always busy and on the go. If you can get through to a reporter’s direct phone line, be prepared to pitch your story in one or two brief sentences. If they ask follow-up questions, answer them as succinctly as possible. Offer to follow-up with an email with more detail. Or start with a brief email and follow-up with a phone call to see if the reporter has any interest or questions.
- Get his or her name right. If you’re going to pitch a story directly to a reporter, you absolutely must pronounce and spell their name correctly when you call and email. These are people who work hard to build up their reputations and bank on their recognizability. Getting their names wrong will certainly not endear you to them.
- Be familiar, but not too familiar, and definitely not phony. It’s okay to let the reporter know why you chose them to pitch your story to. For example you could say, “I know you’re and animal lover…,” or, “I read your story a few weeks back about kids going hungry in the summer so I thought you might be interested in covering a similar story about…”. Keep it brief. Don’t fawn all over them as if you’re a rabid fan. And don’t pretend to know more about them than you do. If a reporter senses that you’re being disingenuous — and remember, they’re trained to pick up on that stuff — why would they trust the information you’re trying to convey to them.
Getting your information to the right person at the right time is the key. And knowing a bit about “the right person” gives you that much more of an edge.