Five Tips for Landing Brand-Building Local News Coverage

Local news coverage is a multimedia jackpot for brands seeking public exposure.

Analysis from the Pew Research Center finds that, despite media’s fragmentation, television remains the dominant way Americans get news at home, with 71 percent of U.S. adults watching local news.

Most stations not only broadcast content over the airwaves, they usually stream it online, too.

Stories covered by journalists are also archived both in video and written form on the station’s website.

These stories are usually pushed through social media channels by the station, spreading the reach of a local news placement even further.

But before you hit the jackpot, you have to mine the gold.

Getting your brand in front of a local TV reporter takes skill.

Television newsrooms are controlled chaos.

A producer, for instance, may keep an ear on police scanners while changing a show rundown with 10 minutes until air-time and shooing a reporter and camera crew out the door to set up a last-minute live shot.

And that’s a good day.

If you want to break through the noise and get your story noticed by a broadcast reporter, consider the following tips:

Watch the News

Different stations favor different types of stories.

Some stations lean toward human interest stories, where others value a strong economic report.

Take note of trends.

This will help you know how to frame your story in a way that most appeals to the station you want to cover it.

It will also help you know what type of story to pitch.

Story types include:

  • VO/SOT (voiceover/sound on tape): An anchor reads the story and a soundbite is aired. These are typically used for smaller events and stories.
  • Package: This is a story that’s edited and tracked with a reporter’s voice. It typically includes at least two interviews and is reserved for the day’s most compelling stories.
  • Investigative story: These uncover issues important to the station’s audience. These may be controversial in nature, and can take days or weeks to produce.
  • Live report: A reporter narrates the story live from the field. These are excellent for large events with a lot of action to show on camera, and for breaking news. They may also contain live interviews with sources.

It’s also important to become familiar with a station’s on-air talent—particularly the beat reporters.

Find out who covers your geographic or industry, and get to know the types of stories they cover.

If the station you’re targeting doesn’t have beat-specific reporters, look for those who have covered stories that align with your own.

Reaching out and building a relationship with them, even if you don’t have a particular story to pitch at the time, lets them know you’ll be a good resource the moment they need it.

Get a Grasp on TV Newsworthiness

A story won’t go anywhere (other than an assignment editor’s trash) if it’s not newsworthy.

In addition to classic news parameters such as timeliness, proximity and prominence, consider three these elements:

  1. How many people does your story affect? TV reaches a lot of people, so local news coverage needs to resonate with a wide demographic. If your story is meaningful for a large population, such as parents, business owners, or job seekers, you may have a newsworthy story.
  2. Is your story emotionally gripping or astounding? Is there something bizarre, unusual, or heart-wrenching that makes your story stand out? Or would you just change the channel?
  3. Does your story lend itself to video? Every good TV story needs a good visual to go along with it.  If you have something interesting to show on camera, make sure you include that in your pitch.

Reach Out at the Right Time

A television news crew turns multiple stories with each working shift.

Every minute counts.

If you want to reach them with a story idea or a follow-up call, you’ll want to do so when they’re most likely to have a minute—or at least a few seconds—to have a quick conversation.

Because reporters and assignment editors attend daily editorial meetings where they talk about the news they want to cover, it’s best to communicate right before those meetings happen.

Typically, there’s a morning meeting around 9:00 a.m., and an afternoon meeting  around 2:00 p.m.

Try calling 15 to 30 minutes prior to one or the other so your story is fresh on their minds as they walk in to discuss coverage plans for the day.

To Land Local News Coverage, Be Flexible

The stories a reporter leaves the station to cover may not be the stories that air on the 6:00 p.m. broadcast.

As new events unfold, crews will adjust in mere minutes, if needed.

It’s essential for you to be as flexible as possible when working with reporters to give your brand the best opportunity to be featured in a story and receive local news coverage.

This includes:

  • Being camera-ready when a reporter has time to meet. When possible, adjust your schedule to theirs.
  • Meeting a reporter at their ideal location. This may be a site where they’ll need b-roll for your story, such as a retail store or a factory. Or, it could mean meeting in a parking lot 20 minutes away to save the reporter time between his or her next stop.
  • Responding to a reporter’s call within 15 minutes.
  • Understanding that breaking news may trump your story. It’s not personal, it’s just part of the business. If that happens and your story is “evergreen,” or relevant for several more days or weeks, follow-up the next day to see if you can reschedule.

Every newscast starts with a blank slate.

With understanding, flexibility, and the right story, reporters and assignment editors will likely be receptive to you.

Even if your pitch isn’t a fit that day or week, it’s possible you could be just the right person they’ll need for a something a few months down the road.

Now, they know just who to call.

image credit: pixabay

Meredith Yates

Meredith Yates is an account manager at the Bradford Group, a public relations and marketing firm based in Nashville, Tennessee. Prior to joining the Bradford Group, she worked as a television news reporter covering stories on community issues, politics, education and more.

View all posts by Meredith Yates