This is one media relations takeaway from the announcement Facebook made about investing $300M in supporting local newsrooms.
You’ll remember Google made a similar commitment. The motives for these initiatives vary based on who you ask. It’s no secret that as digital news platforms, both companies have exacerbated the fake news era, but whether or not it will help reduce political agendas isn’t what we’re here to discuss today.
There is value in local news, and according to Facebook, consumers want more of it. For a media relations campaign, this should resurface a strategic move you might have largely overlooked or devalued lately.
Why have you overlooked it? Because local news doesn’t carry the glitz and glamour of national news, and glitz and glamour is what your client has asked you for. In reality though, what they are really asking you for is to put together a media relations strategy that will deliver value and ROI for them. More is not always better, right? Quality over quantity, yes? Ignoring the press in your client’s own backyard or in their strategic markets could be one of the biggest disservices you’re doing their campaign. In doing your job correctly, you should be able to convey the value of local news coverage by:
Drawing a direct line to their target market
Explaining the likelihood and value of syndication
Identifying three markets to try the strategy in and setting a clear metric to measure success by
Oftentimes, clients assume local media coverage is small potatoes. They believe it is “easy to get.” This couldn’t be further from the truth, and anyone who pitches them knows it is a hustle. Local media pitching has its own special hurdles that other verticals you’re pitching may not. The first being providing a local tie for the story, and a strong visual. The second challenge being the often quick and demanding turnaround.
Finding a local tie for the story often requires working with partners or clients of your clients. While adding another party to the mix of already horrendous scheduling, this is often the best story you can tell. It’s promotional with strong third-party validation from the people that are impacted by the client. Working together on local press can also be a great warm up strategy for other opportunities you might want them to help you with. Local media feels tangible and is more easily understood. Once they get a taste for interviewing and the stories play out well, the source is highly likely to make themselves available to you again. Since we deal a lot with technology and healthcare clients, developing friendly case studies is a win.
The quick turnaround for making a story happen once a reporter has latched on, in my opinion, is the most challenging part of working with local news. It can be difficult for the parties involved to understand the urgency to put resources in place and confirm spokespeople for the interview. The needs should be communicated to each party before starting to pitch the opportunity. You can preempt this by also providing a timeframe upfront to the reporter, saying the story is two weeks out, or that you’ll need 72 hours to schedule once they’ve confirmed interest. If the story is good enough, they’ll work with you.
Learning via case study is the best way to understand local media, and I’ve got tons of them. One that comes to mind is an app we work with called EASE. It’s an incredible technology with an even more enticing story when the pieces fall into place. The app is used in the OR or ICU to send updates to family while loved ones are in surgery or in intensive care. Local media relations is an obvious play for this client because:
Hospitals around the country are using it
Some hospitals are in top TV markets with high viewership
The narrative has a local tie AND consumer benefit
Most importantly, though, this strategy makes sense for the client because hospitals are competitive, and competitive hospitals watch local news. I actually spent a few years working on the internal media relations team for the largest hospital system in my local market. We noticed when the competitor health systems got local news coverage and so did our executives.
Each month, we strategically pick a regional market to saturate. Yes, there are sometimes delays and hurdles with organizing the hospital side of the story, but the effort always pays off. The stories are always on-message and a strong validation for the technology due to hospitals and patients discussing its many benefits. Many times, the local segments are also syndicated and air in other markets, providing additional visibility and a higher reach. And as anticipated, competitor hospitals notice and call EASE. This level of ROI is rare, and any PR person that tells you differently is lying. Media relations serves as an awareness and credibility tool. One that with consistency and repeated effort assists in getting you noticed and remembered as marketing and sales approach your targets. But there are ways media relations can result in direct leads and local media can be one of them. This approach is more targeted and to a certain degree, more niche than national press. For the right client and the right goal, honing in like this can go a long way.
So, I guess that’s a thank you to Facebook and Google. No matter your motives, local news does need help and support so they can continue telling great stories that impact the communities and the companies making a difference to those in them. Are you one of them?