Tips for Telling Your Story to the Media
So, you've been thinking about telling some of your success stories to the media, but you're not sure where to begin or how to get organized?
Relax, it's not as difficult or as demanding as you may think. Doing a little homework can make your efforts more effective. Here are 10 tips that will help you tell your story to the media.
- Personalize. Think about your practice and your clients/patients. Is there a good human-interest story there just waiting to be told? Put yourself in the role of a reporter, and ask yourself if one or more of those stories would be of interest to the readers of your local newspaper, viewers of your TV station, or listeners of your radio program. Imagine you know nothing about audiology or speech-language pathology. Focus on the elements of your story that would be of interest to consumers, and let that guide the development of your story.
- Do Your Homework. Become familiar with the media outlets and reporters you want to target. Find out what they have covered in the past and who their audience is. Make sure your story isn't something that was just written about a month or two ago. Call and find out what their deadlines and lead times are. This information also will help you plan when to make your pitches.
- Know Your Audience. Tailor your story to specific reporters and media outlets. Many single elements of a story often have the potential of becoming a story in and of themselves. Look at different ways to approach the same story so that reporters can get a different spin.
- Don't Be Bashful. At the same time, think of "big picture" stories as a way of fitting yourself in. Is your practice or area of treatment part of a larger trend? Is your approach novel? Reporters often like to show how the local community fits into a national perspective. Don't hesitate to contact ASHA or go to ASHA's Web site to learn national statistics.
- Be Tough and Move On. If a reporter says "no" to a pitch, don't take it personally. Even if you think it's the best idea for a story, accept the reporter's answer. You don't know other stories or assignments that may be on her or his plate. Consider offering the idea to another reporter or outlet. Or wait a few months and then try again.
- Follow Up. Once you have phoned a reporter, pitched a story, and positioned yourself as a resource, learn when and how to follow up. Find out when the best time to phone the reporter again is and when her or his deadlines are. When you do call, it's always a good idea to ask, "Is this a good time for you to talk?" She or he will appreciate the consideration and thoughtfulness.
- Make Yourself Available. Once you have established yourself as a person reporters can call for information, be sure to be accessible to reporters and return their calls promptly. Even if the reporter isn't writing up a story you suggested, you never know when you might fit in as a resource for another story.
- Be Creative. Think of different ways to access a media outlet. There are many ways to think about a story and how it can be covered in a newspaper or on a radio or television program. Look at different or unusual ways to tell a story. When you work with radio, audio elements are of major importance, while visuals are particularly important for television. Newspapers usually can cover issues in more depth and may use pictures or other graphics.
- Keep Working. Develop supporting materials and keep them easily accessible. Consider creating a fact sheet containing important statistics and information relevant to your practice or the issue you are promoting. Or craft a "FAQ" or "Q & A" that explains issues clearly to reporters. Avoid technical language and try to write objectively rather than promotionally. And be sure to send the material to reporters.
- Be Knowledgeable and Interesting. Prepare for interviews. Know your issue inside and out, but concentrate on just 3 or 4 main points you want to make. Make sure it takes no more than 4 or 5 seconds to make a point. These main points often will be what you are quoted on or will be the "sound bite" used if you are interviewed on television. If you are asked a question and don't know the answer, say so. Tell the reporter you'll find out and get back to her or him. What still matters most in media relations and your relationship with a reporter is honesty, accuracy, reliability, and credibility.
Former ASHA Manager, Public Relations
Accompanying resources for this article are provided online:
This article first appeared in the Vol. 6, No. 2, March/April 2007 issue of Access Audiology.