February 1, 2013 Columns

Spreading the Word: Raise Your Profession's Profile With Local Angles on National News

Your local media want to cover stories that are relevant for their audiences. To engage them, an effective tactic is to show media that your story is highly relevant for their readers, audiences and listeners.

How can you do that? One way is by leveraging national stories. For example, recent major network news stories have appeared about the American Pediatric Association's bid to classify cheerleading as a sport-to raise its profile and address concerns about injuries like traumatic brain injury.

You could use a story like that to attract local media coverage. First though, you need to establish local relevancy. With that story as a backdrop, you could reach out to your local media including information about how many local children are involved in cheerleading. If available, you could also provide statistics on how many of these children had sustained concussions and head injuries while cheerleading or playing other sports. If you treated one of these children who suffered a TBI, after you receive permission from their parents, you could offer the child or even their parents as sources for interviews.

Another approach would be to focus on the work of your local health reporters for newspapers or TV and radio news. Understand what they like to cover and how they do it. For example, do they frequently use statistics, fact sheets or visuals? Do they like to report on "real life" situations? If so, make sure you have such information, materials, and sources readily available. Also, consider social networking venues; do reporters have blogs or can you follow them on Twitter? By following them, you can gain insight into the types of stories that interest them.

Establishing relevancy is only the first step engaging media, however. You also will need to pitch your story. A successful media pitch can take the form of written communication- such as a pitch letter or press release-or verbal or electronic communication-like phone calls and e-mails. When pitching, be concise and to the point. Because you may have only two or three lines of text or less than a minute to get someone's attention, make sure your first sentence conveys the local relevance of your story. You can do this by providing the media with attention-arresting statistics, an interesting opinion or a thought-provoking question that will make your media contacts want to learn more or cover your story.

When a reporter responds positively to your request, don't forget to follow up quickly. Reporters live and die by deadlines, so being efficient and available is crucial.

Have questions about engaging the media? E-mail them to pr@asha.org along with your contact information.


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