Marketing & Communications Centre > Marketing Essentials > Help Sheets > Attracting Coverage in Your Local Media

Attracting Coverage in Your Local Media

For any community group or not-for-profit, the local media should be viewed as a key plank of its communications efforts.

Not only is coverage in the local media often easier to get in comparison to state or national media, but it is often more relevant to your group's members, supporters, volunteers, donors and other stakeholders.

If your organisation draws its membership or support from the local area - especially if it is a smaller or community-based group - then it is the local media which will best communicate your messages to them.

If your group is larger, but has a significant presence in a particular geographic area, that area's local media will again be an important messenger for what your group wants to say.

When it comes to courting coverage in the local media, there are a few steps your group can take to maximise its chances for success.

Starting out

Know your local media

To successfully gain local media coverage, your group or organisation needs to have firstly built up healthy relationships with the local media.

While getting in touch with the media in a bid to get them to run a story on your group can be done quickly, building up firm relationships with local media outlets and journalists takes an investment of time.

Ultimately, your group should aim to build up such a good relationship with a media organisations or journalist that you have them ringing you for story leads or comments on issues, rather than the other way around!

For more information on building these relationships, refer to the two help sheets Creating a Media Contact Book and Using Your Media Contact Book at the Media & Marketing Centre.

Know the story you want to communicate

It is no use approaching the local media for a story if your group is not sure of the story it wants to get out to the public.

Make sure your media team is clear on the story or item that it is to spread, the key messages it needs to convey and other important details the local media need to know.

This could involve your media team (or whoever is responsible for working with the media) mapping out a few aspects to your story:
  • WHO - who is your group and who is involved in your news?
  • WHAT - what activity or news are you publicising?
  • WHEN - when is your activity or newsworthy event occurring, or has the news already "occurred" and you are reacting to it?
  • WHERE - where is it occurring?
  • WHY - why are you doing it, saying it or giving this opinion? Explain the motivations of your group or organisation, as well as any of your stakeholders you may be speaking on behalf of.
  • HOW - how are you doing your activity?
Clearly and concisely setting out the answers to these questions means your group has covered the basic information it needs to convey to any media looking to publicise its news - be it local or otherwise.

The importance of localising your story

Once your group or organisation has laid the groundwork - through establishing relationships with the local media, and knowing the information it wants to communicate - it must then localise the story to increase its relevance to the local media.

Once your group knows it has some news to spread, being able to localise it may be the most important step of all in attracting the local media.

Simply put - if your story has no local relevance, the local media will not be interested The local media have a keen eye for any story that arrives through news release, email, phone call or otherwise that doesn't have a local angle - and those stories often end up in the bin.

Local media outlets do not just run facsimile stories of national, state or international news. A local media outlet's job is to bring the news down to a local level for its audience, and tell that audience how it might impact on them or affect them.

Localising your story needn't be hard; in fact, most news stories are able to be localised to some extent. And once your group becomes skilled at localising its news stories, it will become easier and easier to do so.

Determining the local angle

Your group needs to be able to quickly determine the local angle of its story - and then be able to just as quickly articulate it to the media outlet/s it is approaching.

Knowing how your story relates back to the local area, and pinpointing the part/s of your story with local relevance, will shape how your group can best localise the information it has.

Localising your story can be done in a number of ways. Think about:
  • If your group is based in the local area.
  • If what your group is doing - an activity, fundraiser, function - is occurring in the local area, or will your group's activity impact on the local area?
  • If the information your group is communicating is about something that affects the local area, or does it deal with wider issues that are relevant to the local area?
  • If your group or organisation is helping someone in the local area, or if a local is affected by an issue that is relevant to your group?
  • If there is a special guest coming to the area to help your group with its activity, launch, announcement, etc?
  • If what your group is publicising is a regular meeting, activity or event that is held locally and, while not headline grabbing, is still important information you'd like to communicate. 

Knowing what type of story you want, and where you want it to appear

Knowing how your group is going to localise its message can shape what type of story it should aim for.

If your organisation is staging an activity in the local area, then a general interest story - with possible photo and interview opportunity - could be the way to go. Just make sure you have all the details prepared for your interview with the media outlet.

If there is an opportunity to focus on an issue in more depth, a longer feature piece (particularly in a local newspaper) could be more effective. This is especially so if the information you want to communicate can be best done through interviews or pictures by a local you have helped, or who has used your services.

Maybe your group is just looking for a listing in the community column of the local newspaper, or the community noticeboard many radio stations and local on-line portals have.

Pinpointing where you want your story to appear is another important consideration.

Is it a general news story, or is it more likely to get a run in the sports section of your local newspaper (or local radio or TV news bulletin)?

Maybe there are other special interest local media publications or shows on local radio or television that your story or group could particularly appeal to.

Having a solid knowledge of your area's local media - the different options you have and the different outlets there are - can help your group target certain local media outlets, shows, sections or journalists to maximise its chances of coverage.

What next?

When your group has figured out how it will localise its news story, it is time for it to work through the ways it is going to contact the media and, through them communicate to the wider public.

This can be done in a number of ways - for example:
  • Through ringing your media contacts.
  • By distributing media releases.
  • By organising a media event or press conference.
  • By organising a photo opportunity or being available for an interview.
A number of help sheets are available at the Media & Marketing Centre to assist you in these areas. They include:

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