How to Get Local Media Coverage
Most brands covet national media exposure. The dream is to see their name ‘in lights’ on the likes of BBC News, ITV, Sky News or on the front page of The Times or The Financial Times.
Local media coverage is often an after-thought if a thought at all. But this can be a short-sighted strategy, particularly if you’re a local or regional start-up.
If you consider that 74% of people in the UK trust local news over national news, going local is a no-brainer. It can also be a godsend if you’re trying to build momentum in support of an issue that affects your local community.
Why? Elected representatives and prominent businesspeople keep an eye on the local media as they’re constantly on the lookout for ways to bolster their profiles. If they read a story about your campaign in a local trusted source and see it as an opportunity to win brownie points with the community, they might get behind the cause and help you. It’s a win-win.
With this in mind, here are some tips on how to get local press coverage.
1. Get to know your target media
The first step is to identify local newspapers, TV and radio stations, magazines, blogs and websites. It goes without saying, you only want to pick ones that reflect your target audience.
Look at the type of content your chosen publications produce and make a note of the names and contact details of the writers, editors and broadcasters who produce material that might appeal to your customers.
Once you’ve identified your target media, it’s time to make yourself known to them. There are various ways to do this:
- Connect with them on social media: Most journalists include their social media handles at the end of articles or on their author bios. These are their preferred contact channels. So, go ahead and follow them and send them connection requests.
- Engage with their content: Once you’ve followed and/or connected with journalists, help them by sharing, liking, and commenting on their social media posts and stories. But only do it when it feels authentic to do so.
- Facilitate introductions: If you have a contact that can speak on a topic a journalist is writing about, offer to connect them (with your contact’s permission, of course). If the journalist is on a tight deadline, you could help them out and earn some brownie points along the way.
- Join business networking groups: Joining your local Chambers of Commerce (or similar business networking group) can pay dividends. If you have the time, go for a committee position – this will get your name known. Take a pro-active role by offering to speak at events or manning the stand at conferences. This will boost your credibility and maximise your chances of getting noticed by local media and approached for a quote.
3. Submit comments to reporters
If you have an opinion on an issue that affects local businesses or the community, put it in an email to your local paper. If they publish it, great. It’s free PR for not a lot of effort. If more than one of your opinions is published, it’s a good sign and the journalist clearly respects your opinion. So why not contact them and offer to write a regular column, or answer readers’ queries on local business issues?
It goes without saying, only comment on topics you’re knowledgeable about.
4. Get involved in the local community
Today, businesses have a civic and moral responsibility to take an active interest in the wellbeing of their communities. Known in PR terms as ‘community relations’, it’s a ‘must’ rather than a ‘would-like-to-have’.
It’s also a priority for consumers. 89% of respondents in a study conducted by insurance company Foresters said they believe businesses should contribute to charities and support their local communities, while 59% said companies that made corporate donations to charity were most likely to benefit from increased profits.
The numbers say it all. Community relations is important to your customers, so it should be a priority for you.
If you’re not already giving back to your local community, there are lots of ways to do it, from sponsoring a local sports team or community event, to volunteering in a school, or donating products or expertise to local charities.
Need some inspiration? Here are a few real-life examples of community relations in action.
Greggs Breakfast Clubs
As part of their CSR strategy, bakery chain Greggs launched their Greggs Breakfast Club programme, which provides over seven million free healthy breakfasts to children in over 600 primary schools in the UK each year.
Ben & Jerry’s social justice ice-cream
Activism has always been a big part of ice cream brand Ben & Jerry’s history. In 1987, the brand launched social justice-themed ice cream flavours to lobby for change and raise money for issues affecting the communities they operate in, such as LGBTQ+ rights, criminal injustice, and global warming.
Google is well known for its corporate philanthropy. As well as running multiple charity programmes that have provided over $100 million in grants and investments, the company runs a volunteer programme which allows employees to dedicate up to 20 hours of work time to volunteering in their local communities each year.
They also have a matching gift programme in place where donations made by employees between $50 and $12,000 are matched at a 1:1 ratio.
Giving back to the community is not only the right thing to do; it can also do wonders for PR in terms of raising your profile and fostering goodwill, both with the community and local media. It’s also great for business, in terms of staff morale and internal PR.
Read more about community relations here: What is community relations?
5. Create PR opportunities
Another way to get local press coverage is by creating your own PR opportunities. Here’s some food for thought:
Local exhibitions and trade shows
Exhibitions and trade shows can benefit your business in a multitude of ways. They’re a great opportunity to reach new and untapped markets, network, demonstrate your product, build brand awareness, and crucially, for the purposes of this post, meet key reporters and editors from your industry.
If you’re attending or exhibiting at a local event, make your brand stand out by sponsoring a session, or signing up to host a seminar or workshop.
It may not result in an immediate story, but getting your brand known could make future pitches easier.
You can also create PR opportunities and achieve local media coverage by hosting your own events, such as a launch event/open day. Invite the local community and media along to your office to meet your team and try out your products. Ply them with bubbly and nibbles and go on a charm offensive.
As part of the event, you could team up with a local paper or radio station to run a competition to win a prize that relates to your business, such as a year’s supply of your product, or a meal for two at your restaurant, etc.
This is great PR fodder.
Another way to attract local media coverage is with an attention-grabbing PR stunt. However, it’s a risky strategy: Get it right and journalists will knock at your door. But get it wrong and you’ll end up with egg on your face.
A PR stunt is anything you do to enhance your brand’s reputation, get attention, or influence how people think.
In addition, PR stunts:
– Need to be interesting, strange or original. In other words, not ‘business as usual’
– Are short or one-off events, not long-term campaigns.
So how did one brand use a PR stunt effectively to nail local media coverage?
Local media coverage case study: Dohtonbori
To promote the launch of their new restaurant in the district of Harajuku, Tokyo-based restaurant chain Dohtonbori launched the world’s first ‘Fast Food Aid’ pop-up shop in 2016.
Designed to look like a laboratory, the shop door was adorned with a large orange cross, the window was lined with numerous orange medication bottles and a large neon sign read ‘for FREE.’
The ‘free’ items were vitamins and nutritional advice.
All people had to do to get their hands on free supplements was take in a receipt from their last fast-food purchase, (which wasn’t difficult considering the abundance of burger joints and fried chicken shops in the area). ‘Lab technicians’ then analysed their intake of nutrients based on the receipt and gave them vitamins to supplement what they were lacking from the meal.
This was a clever stunt. By placing vitamins into the hands of fast food-eaters, the restaurant highlighted the poor nutritional content in a tangible way, while generating plenty of positive local media coverage, as well as mentions in the national consumer and trade press. This in turn drove more people to the restaurant and boosted their all-important bottom line.
A delicious PR win.
Local media coverage case study: Grinder Coffee
Although not a PR stunt in the strictest sense, we wanted to mention this fabulous social media campaign, as it goes to show you don’t need a big budget, or a flashy gimmick if you’re wondering how to get local press coverage.
In 2018, Joelle Murray, the owner of Grinder Coffee (a small, independent coffee shop in Toronto), launched a social media campaign to get A-lister Ryan Gosling to visit her shop while he was in town for the Toronto International Film Festival.
Murray launched the campaign in an attempt to get local press coverage and boost business, after a flashy coffee chain opened up across the street.
Murray’s campaign began on Twitter on September 1. Her first post read: ‘Good news. We are back on twitter cause Monday begins our #ryanneedsgrinder,’ along with a picture of her standing next to a cardboard cut-out of the LaLa Land actor. ‘Come have coffee with us @RyanGosling while you are in town for #TIFF2018.’
Murray tweeted each day and tagged the actor in every post. She took photos of local VIPs with the cardboard cut-out of Gosling and made tweets out of them. She included a picture of John Tory, the Mayor of Toronto, with the caption, ‘even the Mayor is behind you having coffee with us @RyanGosling’
Before long, the campaign went viral. Gosling got wind of Murray’s quest and to her delight, he stopped by for a coffee on Tuesday, September 11.
The campaign did wonders for business. It attracted coverage in all the local news outlets, plus respected national publications such as The Huffington Post. It goes without saying, the café was also inundated with new customers. What a result.
How to build relationships with local press reporters
We’ve looked at things you can do to get local media coverage. So what happens if you’re successful? How do you build long-lasting relationship with local media outlets?
Here are a few top tips:
- Be available: It goes without saying, you need to respond to reporter’s calls quickly. Most of them have a day or two at most to turn a story around. If you make them wait for days on end, or worse, ignore their calls, they’ll blacklist you and move on.
- Never lie: Always tell the truth. If you don’t know the answer to a question, ‘fess up rather than guess. Your credibility is at stake.
- Nothing is ‘off the record’: There’s no such thing as ‘off-the-record’. Anything you say to a reporter is fair game for a story. So, if you don’t want it reported, don’t say it.
Good luck with getting local press coverage for your business.