Get on the Local Reporter’s Radar
Local media coverage is one of the most effective ways of getting your franchise local recognition. Reporters may seem intimidating, but it’s really just a matter of knowing what they want and understanding how to communicate with them. The first step is getting on their radar – they need to know you and your franchise business exist!
The Elephant in the room
Before I carry on, I need to deal with the fears some people have around the media. Reporters, particularly local ones, are not out to get you. They have one job and that’s finding story idea that will interest their audiences. For local reporters, that means stories that involve local people and businesses, just like your franchise.
These can be hard to find, particularly when some local newspapers have one reporter to write an entire weekly publication. Often, they rely so much on people approaching them with interesting ideas. That’s where you come in.
They will be so pleased when you contact them with good, positive ideas and will subsequently see you as someone who is helping them, and even someone who could be useful on an ongoing basis. I used to be one of these people, and whenever someone came to me with a story idea, I never even considered taking a negative angle.
Firstly, local newspapers are almost always positive in their news. Secondly, I knew that if I did take a negative angle, I would lose that source for good.
So how do you get on their radar?
The first step to getting on their radar is finding out who they are, and getting their phone number and email address. Never use an address like email@example.com. Always find their personal contact details.
Then, take a look at some of their back stories to get a flavour of what they write about. This will be helpful when you pitch ideas to them.
The best thing you can do next is try to meet them in person. If you have a mutual acquaintance, get introduced, but if not just send an email with a follow-up phone call. Say what you do and that you want to buy them a coffee at a café of their choice. Explain that you want to discuss how you could be of help to them in the future as a possible source for stories. Ask what they look for and discuss possible areas of where you could help, but don’t pitch anything specific unless they ask you to.
Whether they agree to the meeting or not, you will now be high on their radar and they’ll take you seriously when you do pitch stories to them. They’ll know you are not looking to ‘score some free PR,’ but genuinely wanting to help. If they do turn you down, still ask them if they would like you to send through story ideas in the future that may interest them. Also ask what channel they would prefer you to contact them through.
I strongly recommend you do this, but if you really don’t want to, there is another approach that’s better than not contacting them at all before pitching. This is where you find a story they’ve written on a topic that you could have commented on. In an email, tell them who you are and that you really enjoyed reading the story. Then mention a particular point they made and sign off by asking them to consider you as an expert source for future stories like this. This creates an additional point of contact, so they will know you if you do eventually pitch them a story.
In the next column, we’ll look at what local reporters are looking for from you.