How to Get a Story on the Local News (for the Right Reasons)
This article is part of a larger series on Press Release.
Local press coverage isn’t just for big brands. Small businesses can get a story on the local news and reap the rewards that come with positive local publicity. Newspapers and the local TV news are looking for a great story. Find out how your business can get coverage by giving them that story.
Getting a story on the local news can mean thousands of dollars’ worth of free exposure to help you build brand presence. To boost the chances of landing media coverage, opt for professional distribution to yield an even higher return. While there are many to choose from, those targeting a certain area should choose Newswire, which provides the ability to target local press by location.
1. Write Your Press Release
The most critical piece of any press release is the angle. Before you begin writing, find a newsworthy angle based on your type of press release, then craft your story around that. Start with a draft of your general concept, write a headline that hints at the angle without giving it all away, then fine-tune it by putting the most compelling information at the forefront of (or start of) your press release to hook the journalist early.
If you need a little help coming up with story angles that people will find interesting, use the visual keyword research tool, AnswerThePublic. It tells you what people are talking about online, giving you insights to create great content ideas. You can also look at our article on press release examples for inspiration and ideas.
When writing your press release, include a release date and the city, state, and date of your news story along with your announcement. You also want to be sure to use the most objective language possible and end with contact information and a clear call to action. For more information as to what to include, check out our guide on how to write a press release.
Learn more about the key elements that should be in every press release and get a free template in our guide on the press release format and template. If writing isn’t your forte, let the pros write press releases on your behalf. The small price you pay for an expertly written release can make a huge difference. For the type of high-quality writing services you need to land press coverage and get your story on the local news, check out our guide to the best press release writing services.
2. Find Local Media Outlets
After writing your press release, the next step to get local press coverage, and hopefully get your story on the news, is to identify which local media outlets (e.g., newspapers, TV stations, radio stations, and websites) would be the best to send your story to. Compile a list of relevant media outlets until you have a fairly sizable number of contacts.
If you don’t have the time to research and weed through local media outlets, or if you want local and national coverage, use a press release distribution service like eReleases instead. In addition to distributing your release to major news wires and outlets, eReleases can send your news directly to the email inboxes of local news editors and journalists.
Here are the different types of outlets to look for in your area:
- Local print coverage: Get a read on what sort of news the local press is covering by looking at coverage and news titles in your area. A good starting point is the U.S. Newspaper List (USNPL), which lists newspapers by state and city. But also consider local city newspapers, city, ZIP code, and neighborhood-based magazines, such as the N2 Publishing group, educational publications, and community-centric publications, such as your local Chamber of Commerce and other business directories.
- Local radio stations: Discover all of the radio stations in your area using the free radio locator tool. It links to each station’s website where you can find contact information. In addition to organic radio coverage, consider radio advertising.
- Local television stations: News stations need local-interest stories for their programming. Every major network has a local affiliate with its own website and contact information. Look up the television station’s local website and visit its contact page. To get a list of all of your local channels, go to the TV Guide site, click the “Customize my listings” link, and enter your ZIP code.
- Local websites: Local websites include blogs, digital news sites, and even Facebook groups dedicated to posting news and announcements relative to specific locations. One of the biggest online networks for local news stories is Patch Network, with individual websites for several hundred neighborhoods and cities.
Additionally, make sure your business has a solid online presence with a great business website and listings on all relevant online directories, like a Google Business Profile, Yelp listing, and so on. For help managing your directory listing, use a top brand reputation management company like Hibu, and find more ways to increase your local brand presence using local search engine optimization (SEO) tools.
3. Identify the Right Local Media Contacts
Now that you have a list of the print media, news stations, and websites you want to cover your story, it’s time to find local press to contact with your pitch. One way to identify the right press contacts is to find journalists who regularly cover similar stories. Then, locate their direct email addresses by reviewing the publication or their social media profiles, using email finders to find direct email addresses, or by calling the media outlet to request the information.
When you want to get a story on the local news, here are five ways to find a journalist’s contact information:
- Review published articles: Most publications offer author or journalist bios where authors often provide additional information about themselves, such as email and social media contact information.
- Find contact information with SignalHire: SignalHire is a Google Chrome plugin that finds email addresses and phone numbers for contacts on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.
- Discover email addresses with Hunter.io: This is a free email tool in which you input the company website where your target journalist works and it gathers emails.
- Connect via LinkedIn: Similar to Hunter, GetProspect is one of the best ways to find email addresses for companies on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is the leading social networking platform for professionals, and it is a great way to connect with a reporter or journalist, whether you use an email finder or connect organically.
- Call the local media outlet: When online research doesn’t work, try calling each local press outlet and asking for the information directly.
While high-quality outlets, such as large and well-known newspapers and stations, are great, so is quantity. This is where a press release distribution service like Newswire can help. Newswire ensures that your press release gets syndicated to a network of more than 4,500 business, financial, and news outlets to increase your online and search presence.
4. Craft Your Email Query (aka Pitch)
Now it’s time to send your press release, which includes coming up with a compelling local press coverage pitch. Like any other type of business introduction email, your email query (or pitch) serves to introduce yourself, your business, and your press release. It should concisely tell the recipient why they should be interested in your press release and how to get more information.
Here are the four elements your pitch should include:
- Personalized greeting: Each pitch should be personalized for the contact, such as personalizing the message for a specific journalist who covers the subject area of your story.
- Eye-catching subject line: Pitches sent via email must include an intriguing subject line if you want them to get opened. It should indicate what the email is about and interest the recipient enough to open it to learn more. For help, use SubjectLine’s free subject line grader to ensure your subject will entice journalists to open your email.
- Body copy with pertinent information: This should be personalized to each journalist by answering the following questions: 1) Why should the recipient (and their audience) be interested? 2) What are the key points? 3) Why do they need to act fast? and 4) Where can they get more information?
- Press release: A pitch needs to include your press release, and it’s best to include it in more than one way. For example, you may attach it as well as paste it below your email, or if you’re using Google Docs or published your press release to your website, you can also simply include a link to it online.
Before sending out your email, be sure to check its grammar and spelling. It’s easy to make silly typos, and these can quickly damage your professional appearance. Use the free tool, Grammarly, to ensure your pitch and press release are in perfect form.
5. Pitch Your News Story by Email & Follow Up
Now it’s time to send your email. Be sure to pitch your release early enough to ensure journalists have time to process it and either air or publish it. Then, follow up to ensure your email doesn’t get buried. Take this follow-up as an opportunity to check if journalists have all they need to run the story by inviting any questions they have about your news story.
Here are the general timelines on when to pitch your press release by outlet type:
- Television and radio: Send your email seven days prior to your release date.
- Newspapers: Pitch your story two to three weeks beforehand.
- Magazines: Pitch your release three to six months before the release date.
Once you have sent your press release, wait three to five days, and if you haven’t received a response, send a courtesy follow-up email. If your press release is time-sensitive, send a follow-up before the release time to pull it to the top of your recipient’s inbox so they can cover the story in time. This helps journalists stay on top of that deadline, which can be very helpful to them.
Pro tip: Try adding another contact point by connecting with journalists over social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. This additional connection can keep you top of mind as the journalist considers your pitch.
6. Respond to Journalists
Ideally, you will hear from journalists after sending them the pitch and press release for your local news story. When you do, reply promptly, identify what they want to discuss, and practice for an interview if necessary. Journalists often have a specific angle they want to approach and will be looking for answers to a series of questions. Try to get this information upfront so you can be prepared when they call or email.
Here are a few tips for responding to journalists:
- Ask what they want to discuss: If the journalist requests an interview, ask for a list of questions so you can think about them beforehand and prep for the interview to best represent your story and brand.
- Prepare your answers: Using the questions that the journalist has, jot down your responses. It’s also worth considering any other potential questions they may ask and preparing answers for those as well to avoid getting caught off guard.
- Practice beforehand: Take the time to run through your answers prior to your interview. Reading your answers out loud can help you work out any kinks and help you become more comfortable with answering the questions.
Remember that journalists often have limited time to collect the information they need. Make sure your pitch as well as your interview answers are insightful but concise.
7. Cultivate Relationships With Local Press Contacts
Once you’ve provided a quality local news story to a journalist, increase your chances of future exposure for your business by cultivating a mutually beneficial relationship with them. Thank them for running your story and find ways to help them further their goals. For example, you can follow them on social media, engage with and reshare their content, offer to introduce them to contacts for future news stories, and pitch new quality story ideas as they arise.
Here are five ways to build mutually beneficial relationships with local journalists:
- Say thank you: Once your story has aired on a local news network or been published, call each journalist who gave you press coverage and thank them personally. Simply remind them of your story and thank them for considering and publishing your story. Answer any questions that arise afterward and offer to be a resource for future stories.
- Connect on social media: Most journalists list social media handles in their author bios. These are the preferred social channels by which they want people to connect with them. Follow or send them a connect request.
- Engage with their content: Once you’ve followed or connected with key journalists on their preferred social media channels, help them by sharing, liking, and commenting on their social media posts and local news stories when it feels authentic to do so.
- Facilitate introductions: If you see your key journalist is covering a story series, for example, and you know contacts who can speak to their next piece on the topic, offer to connect the journalist to your contact (with your contact’s permission).
- Provide quality stories: Finally, go back to step one and repeat this process in the future to offer journalists quality local news stories their audiences will value.
Press Release Tips for Landing Local Coverage
There are many different events in the life of a business that could be press release-worthy, but there is no guarantee that every story will be picked up by local journalists. Follow these tips to increase the likelihood your announcements will earn you additional media coverage and get more exposure for your brand.
- Promote upcoming events: Many business announcements come in advance (or on the heels of) major events. Find out how to write a release for your event using our free event press release template and step-by-step instructions.
- Turn bad news into something positive: Knowing how to write a crisis press release can ensure your company doesn’t get hurt when you have bad news to share.
- Get attention with new hires: Bringing in a big name or adding a top-level exec to your business is a great way to land local press coverage. Learn how in our guide and free new hire press release template.
- Know when to use video: Publishing a video press release is a great choice when you want to showcase executive insights or interviews, share testimonials, summarize case studies, celebrate important milestones, share an important part of your brand’s story, or offer a sneak peek with a how-to overview of a new product or service. It’s also super-easy for journalists to embed into their own stories, and video produces far more online shares and engagement than other types of content.
Pro tip: Once your announcement is written, use the best press release distribution services to get it into the hands of the media. If budget is a concern, try a free press release distribution service instead.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I get the local news to cover my story?
The most important aspect of getting local news coverage is to find the angle that makes it relevant. Your angle needs to offer a compelling example of why your news story matters to the local community. Be timely, and ideally it will be something that puts a positive light on your business.
How do I get my story out there?
Landing media coverage is great, but it’s not the only way to get your story out to gain positive traction for your business locally. You can use paid placements to get your story into regional business publications, reach out to podcasters who cover the local business scene, and self-publish your story to your website’s press page or blog. Once published, you can further spread the word by sharing links to your story on social media and in your email newsletters.
What kind of business stories get local press coverage?
Businesses send press releases for many different reasons, any of which could earn additional press coverage from local news outlets and journalists. For example, the media often covers events attended by celebrities, publishes information and quotes when a significant new hire is added or your company makes a big breakthrough, and writes stories when your business is expanding, moving to a new location, or planning to add new jobs in the community.
Learning how to get a story on the local news is a worthwhile investment of your time that can yield great rewards. Businesses that get publicity increase their exposure and generate more sales. Best of all, press coverage is free, so unlike other forms of marketing and advertising needed to produce similar results, there’s little to no financial investment.
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