Turning Local Media Placement into National News

By Ned Barnett, APR
Barnett Marketing Communications
Congratulations. Following the steps covered here in last month’s issue, you’ve just generated some good local coverage – and it may be that you think this news might interest national news media. That may seem impossible, but it’s not – except for breaking news, almost everything you see on TV or in national newspapers and magazines began as a “local” story. With the right story, you can do that, too. Here are several proven steps showing how you can do just that.
1.     First, obtain your local newspaper’s permission to echo this story on your web page. Obtaining that permission is often easy – if you offer them a valuable quid-pro-quo. A useful exchange is to offer the local newspaper full credit, complete with a prominent copyright notice and instructions on how readers can subscribe. You’re offering them free advertising, generally considered a fair trade for using an article.
2.     Pitch the national media via a brief, to the point e-mail, with a link to the page you’ve echoed (or if you didn’t get permission to echo the article, then a link to the newspaper’s article at their website). In this e-mail, invite editors to see your coverage – and tell them why, and how, this story belongs in their publication. Often, selling them on an interim step, such as an interview, or reviewing the local press coverage, or looking at some supporting research/facts that didn’t make the newspaper article is a good place to start.
3.     Following up that e-mail, call your highest-priority national reporters. Very briefly make the case why they should cover this story. If they are at all interested, send them a basically pre-written follow-up e-mail. Mention one point in the discussion that seemed to grab their interest, then try to hook them into coverage; or, if you think they’re still undecided, to an interview or some other interim step that will lead to coverage. Once they start investing some time into it, they gain increased interest (if only to justify their investment of time).
But how do you know if the reporters or editors you’re targeting are picking up on what you’re saying – especially in that phone call? Simple – obtain a copy of Jacques (Jack) Werth’s "High Probability Selling" (http://www.highprobsell.com ). Review Jack’s techniques and concepts for identifying really interested prospect. These techniques apply to phone pitching work such as this. For the executive who is handling PR as a sideline to running the business, High Probability Selling offers a wealth of useful tips and is an indispensable PR guide for me (I have both the book and the audio tapes). I find his techniques so effective that, for me, it is well worth a quick refresher before hitting the phones.
All of these approaches assume that you have a strong story that has obtained significant local coverage. But what if you can’t get local coverage on a story. Occasionally – with just the right story – you can generate national coverage that will help you bring the news back home. Here’s an example.
A local school and the community hospital put on a health training program for young school kids – those in grades K-3. The nurses used sock puppets to get their basic, but important message across. The school took a publicity photo, using the children of the school’s teachers to avoid problems with “permission.” This photo, along with a short paragraph about the program, was sent to a national nurse-education publication by one of the nurses. The magazine used it as human-interest filler – a newsworthy photo featuring cute kids is relatively easy to place. The school then went to the local paper – which had not been interested in the story originally – showing them this national coverage. The result –front page coverage, including the cute-kid photo – praising the school and the hospital for bringing national recognition to the community.

With the right story, with the right photo, it just might happen.
To conclude, congratulations on getting that important local newspaper placement for your story. That gives you a good platform on which to build some useful national coverage – or vice-versa.

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