Chances are you have some great stories to tell: from patient success stories and new research to helpful information that impacts the lives of people in your community. And, your local news is often an effective channel for furthering awareness of your healthcare organization and getting your stories told.
Generating local news coverage can be fairly easy if you know the best practices. Here are six simple tips to help you get started:
1. Make it Routine. Whenever you are in the early planning stages of an event, make sure media outreach is always a part of your efforts. Think about the people involved – are you working with a patient family or a big community partner? Is the local mayor coming to your event? Your news media want to know about these things, so be sure to tell them!
2. Use Community News Calendars. Submit informational and fundraising events that are open to the public to local news community calendars. Daily and community newspapers, TV stations (ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX) and entertainment websites generally have community calendars. Try to submit your event at least two weeks in advance.
3. Send Photo Recaps. After a successful event, share 1-2 high quality photos with a short 2-3 sentence caption about what occurred. Always include some sort of call to action for the public to take – like a URL or phone number to call to join or contribute.
4. Set Up Coffee Chats. Invite your local reporters to coffee. Learn about what stories they are interested in, and educate them about what you do. If you establish a relationship, they’ll be more likely to think of you when they are looking for their next story. You also can send reporters an email to introduce yourself. Let them know that if they are ever looking for inspirational stories, you are the person to turn to!
Wondering who to contact? Visit the websites of your local news media – your daily newspaper, TV stations and others – to see who has covered similar topics in the past. Generally speaking, those who cover health, medicine and features are going to be the best reporters to contact.
5. Submit Letters to the Editor. Did you have a really successful fundraising event or drive? Send a short thank-you to your local papers. Tell readers about the success, and let them know there are still many ways they can help out. Do you have an event coming up? In 150 words, let readers know the who, what, where, when and why – and encourage them to get out there!
6. Consider Public Service Announcements (PSAs). PSAs can be a great awareness-building tool, especially for those in health care or nonprofits. A PSA is a no-cost advertisement that radio and television stations agree to air. PSAs support a specific cause that is important to the local community and they indicate a specific action that the public can take to address an issue or problem. You may have pre-produced PSAs available. If not, consider writing 15- or 30-second scripts to promote your cause. Then, contact local radio and television station public service directors or promotions directors to pitch your PSA. Send a letter or e-mail describing why the issue is important to the local community. Describe your PSA and request air time during a specific timeframe (such as the weeks before a drive or campaign). Be sure to follow up by phone if you haven’t received a response within a few days. You may also ask about other sponsorship opportunities, such as having a radio station DJ appear at your drive or broadcast live, or posting drive information on the station’s website.
Have you garnered local media coverage for a client recently using one of these techniques? Share your success stories and additional recommendations in the comments!