In this post today, I want to share with you the importance of the local press, even the freebies we sometimes pick up at the supermarket (when we're trying to juggle kids, shopping and a slipping face mask.) They are a spilling fountain of news, stories, facts, community issues, heroes and happy tales and not just the odd fete.
They have a lot more going for them for the eager PR and they should NEVER be overlooked, for one particular reason I shall explain later.
Perhaps one of the challenges of PR today is managing client expectations. Where clients can sometimes be filled with stars in their eyes of getting their new product in the next edition of The Times weekend supplement, for the SME, the scope for landing a national publication might be somewhat a challenge all by itself.
Yet, don't be disheartened, just because your hired PR is having a tricky time trying to get you in Hello! Magazine doesn't mean to say all is not lost for your first crack at the nationals. In fact, as promised, here is a little known nugget for you on how important the locals truly are to you: national journalists often use the local press just as much to get their big stories as they do scouting on Twitter, Tik Tok. and just about anywhere else.
So, now do you see the importance of the local press? So, the next time you see a story in the broadsheets about a something that happened in a sleepy village in Humberside, you can pretty much bet that it came from a local news source. Yet, the good news about the local rags doesn't stop there. In fact, the positives are endless for the SME.
So, in today's post, I am going to show you a no nonsense step by step guide to getting your business featured in the local press and I promise no cheese, no slime and absolutely no grovelling required. But first, let's have a look as to why you should consider your local newsroom in the first place.
The benefits of bothering with the local press:
They are friendly and approachable: I always say that if you want to practice your craft in public relations, there is no better place to start than with the local press. They are more likely to be approachable, friendly and they will even help you along. (You can enjoy the stresses Fleet Street later.) But there are other benefits to the local press if you are starting out building your media database.
They are national journos in the making: Almost all national journos started out in their local community news room. rather like top national radio DJs started out in community hospital studios playing records to the maternity wing. Its where journos learn their craft, and cut their teeth.
Its a place to build your database if you're new: As a seasoned PR, I love the local press. I have learned over the years to spot a talent coming up the ranks. Where I think there is a star editor in the making, I watch them. There are plenty of senior press names on my national and even international database who I first knew as jobbing local reporters.
Local press is more likely to be read thoroughly by their readers/viewers and listeners. There's not doubt about it. You will get your story in front of tens of thousands of readers, listeners on local radio and viewers in regional TV most of which will read the paper from cover to cover, watch a news programme intently or listen carefully to the radio rather than half heartedly pay attention to anything national.
Local is great if have a smaller budget and are going it alone. Top PRs will have all the best media contacts through the national and international press, radio and television as well as digital publications and tech. If you are an SME with a tight budget and can't afford to get a publicist to do the work for you, going local will help you find your feet without the stress of going national (and it is stressful!) Going local will mean you can get confident at handling the press.
Buying habits have changed as more people shop local. A trend which was growing before COVID-19 but like online shopping, has accelerated over the last 18 months is buying locally. People are interested in going back to how the high street was 70 years ago where you shopped in your own town. If you are a business in the same town, people are more likely to buy from you. (Amazon might well have a shelf life after all.)
Local people trust their local press: They are more trusting of their local newsroom because they know that there local area is important to them. So, they are more likely to convert into customers if their local reporter writes something great about you and your product (which is nine tenths of the battle in PR anyway.)
They are local people themselves. Even more of a trust builder here. The writers for your local be it on or offline are local people themselves. They are known personally by their local community, unlike nationals where they probably wouldn't be by the average Joe on the street.
Now you can see the benefits and you're completely sold on them (as you should be!) Let's now have a look at what the HOW.
But first, a quick word of warning...
There is still an art to this, just in case you were wondering if this was going to be easy. It can be easy-er but it still has to be done correctly and pitched to the right outlet.
Just because they are local doesn't mean to say they are in any way amateur. You need think about that. They are still doing exactly the same job as the nationals. They are interested in their audience and NOT your business. They aren't there to do you a favour by promoting your business and they still deserve just as much respect as anyone else.
Ok, with that out of the way, let's move on!
What is the difference between local press and national media?
Apart from the people themselves; the editorial teams, journalists and writers, the fundamentals of the press is still the same. National teams work on multiple tight deadlines, they scour breaking news on often a global scale, they are under immense pressure and if it wasn't bad enough having your editor on your back, you have an inbox filled to the brim with pitches from businesses and PRs to contend with.
The world of the national media journo is tough and each day is a headache. They are still human beings but their time is precious and attention span is short. When you're pitching to the nationals, you've got be fast, accurate and as fact filled as you can be.
Don't think for a minute that the locals won't be interested in anything that's going on in the world of the global media and and all they are obsessed with are school jumble sales and escaping sheep. Far from it. In this age of national uncertainty, world wide pandemics and government lockdowns, the local press haven't been sitting back.
Their job is to find the local angle and report on the bigger picture as it is from the local perspective. Think COVID-19. When cases rose and fell, the local press where out in the high streets talking to local shop owners, businesses and the community. They reported on the plight of local restaurants, Debenhams store in town closing, local night club owners, schools and GPs. All angles of bigger stories at ground level.
So, what's the clue here? Pitch local, it still has to be relevant to the local geographical area. Don't be a bakery offering free bath buns in Clapham Junction and pitch to the Bristol Post (although you might get away with the Bath Gazette...no, forget that....) Local means local to your area, not local as in, well, national.
Remember, if your business is serving the community and its infrastructure, then you may well have something that's newsworthy and interesting to the local press.
How best to serve your local press (and get some publicity for your business)
So, now we have established that the local press are an entity not to be overlooked, let's see what you have to give them. Just like any other newsroom, they are going to want something of high value for their audience. So, the question is, do you have a story that's newsworthy?
Of course, what you think is newsworthy and what is actually newsworthy to a journalist are bound to be two completely different things.
It's the nature of the beast when it comes to being a PR. One of the first things I had to learn when I jumped into public relations was to grow a thick skin. Having said that, being a former newsroom reporter myself, I had been one of those who, yes, I have to admit, would hit the delete button when I was pitched a story that didn't fit or was simply not newsworthy. I know how if feels when you've put so much time and effort into pitching to the press only to be completely ignored.
So, today, let's do our absolutely very best to make sure it DOESN'T happen to you!
What a journalist REALLY wants. Really, really wants!
The secret in getting into the press is to give the Journalist ONE thing (and this is the thing that won me over time and time again as a reporter.) You've got to give them:
A story that's relevant or topical - in other words something that is going to appeal to the journalist's audience and their behaviour (that's really ALL they care about.)
The keyword you're looking for when you pitch to anyone in the press is the word STORY.
So, what do I mean by 'story?'
The press really don't want to know about your sales figures, stats or for that matter, your new line of sofa beds, what they want is a story. Ok, I lie a little, you CAN get away with pitching this quarter's sales figures IF you have an interesting and relevant story that goes with it.
For example, if you hit your quarterly sales targets for your region then that's not going to interest the journo, in fact it might well make them fall asleep (and Lord know, many reporters don't get enough sleep.)
If your top salesman who last month is a local dustman who collects crisp packets dating back the last 70 years, and has a dedicated garden house dedicated to his collection, then you might have a story.
Always look for the story - make it interesting, topical, unique and relevant. THINK the audience of the journalist.
Why? I hear you ask?
It's simple really. You are doing the journo a favour. Once they see that, they will get it and print your story. It's a story that's relevant (it's about someone in the local community) AND it's interesting and engaging and what's more (and this is where you come in) you are still getting your company mentioned.
(Even better if it was your company that saved this much loved dustman who was about to be laid off!)
Ok, so I might be getting too involved in our dustman now, but you can see where this is going. Look for something in your brand, your business or your backstory that's unique, a one off, new, a first of something (perhaps you are the first in your area business to only employ people who are over 65 years old, encouraging them to maintain independence and keeping them active.) It is these things that the press will look for and ONLY look for, so give them what they want. That way, everyone's a winner. Luvvly Jubbly!
The best stories are the ones which have attention grabbing headlines and topics. I recently pitched a client of mine to a trade publication because he had spent much of his career as an Army Major who was now making innovative tech products in the construction industry.
You see, there, I was able to give the journalist something new, something unusual and out of the ordinary. Not only was he a gent who had served many decades for his country but had turned his retirement into serving a part of industry by creating a product which saves thousands of commercial developers thousands of pounds a year in site development costs. So we have crossed over another angle here which the press loves - it's a story of human accomplishment. It's emotional too (as our client served a country which was not is country of origin.)
People connect with people. Your local press are human too!
People love the stories of other people. They warm to stories of challenge, achievement and inspiration. Think Captain Sir Tom Moore of 2020 who walked 100 laps of his garden. He was a fundraising success because of who he was and what he overcame to do what he did. He was unique doing something outstanding.
Are you or have you created something that will change the lives of the masses? Does your product or service do something that helps people overcome a challenge or a struggle? What are your facts for doing this? What are your stats for creating what you did? Will their lives become richer, more fulfilling because of something you have done or created for them? This again is newsworthy and of particular interest to the audience of the journalist.
Again, they are ONLY interested in their readers. Readers means more hits on their online publication, meaning more space is sold for advertising, more print copies are sold, more money is being made.
The press is a business. It's there to make money. Great stories is how they do it.
Want to know where to pitch your great newsworthy story next? Read our next post: