Rhiannon Hendrickson is a senior PR strategist and founder of Orapin.
When we first start working with a new client, we always ask which media outlets are on their wish list. With this question, we are trying to understand what coverage would make them giddy and feel like PR is worth the effort. The answer is almost always the same: The Wall Street Journal, The Today Show, GMA and the New York Times.
Do you know what no one ever says? Local media. Of course, we are not in the practice of squashing anyone’s dreams, if you want to be in the New York Times (and it aligns with your PR goals), then let’s go for it. But let’s not discount the incredible value of local media hits either.
Why it pays to start local
When we start working with any new client, we take a deep dive into their business. It is our goal to get to know them, their dreams, their challenges, the competitors, and their space as if we are a member of their team. For our nonprofit partners, we like to build profiles and personas of their donor base and learn who they serve, why, and what big problems they are trying to solve. We follow a similar methodology with for-profit partners, learning what service they provide, who needs their product, what drives sales velocity and who is in their client pipeline, what their competitors are doing, and how they shine in their space. At the end of the day, PR should help amplify your voice, expand your reach, and ultimately make your organization or business more successful, whether that is in terms of constituents served or widgets sold.
If you serve a local or regional audience, population or consumer, then yes, you will likely understand the benefit of local press (even though you probably want the New York Times, too!) If you are serving a nationally based clientele or donor base, then you may be tempted to skip your hometown press and go after the big media fish. But we are here to tell you that regardless of whether you serve local, regional, or national clients or donors, local press holds great value! Here is why:
- Low-hanging fruit: Your local and regional media exist to tell stories of local interest. So whether you are providing behavioral support services to a specific neighborhood or you are selling your business support services to a global audience, you are important and interesting to your local reporters. They are eager to tell your story! Remember, you can repurpose any media hit for a multitude of owned channels so the value goes far beyond the eyes that read the story in the local paper.
- Relationships: Never discount the relationships you can build with your local reporters. For example, our local Colorado Public Radio reporters often pitch their stories to NPR for their nationally syndicated shows. We’ve had local stories end up on Planet Money and Science Friday. Many local writers also freelance for nationally based publications. So a local mommy blogger may also write for Woman’s Day. Cultivating and growing relationships in your home media market can often yield amazing results; if the local writer has met you and sees how incredible your work is, they just may be your champion on a national stage, too.
- Be a hometown hero: For executive directors and CEOs working on their thought leadership strategy, securing a profile piece in the local business journal can be extremely valuable. Have your byline published locally, get on stage at the local chamber events, look for the local 40 Under 40 awards. Build your thought leadership resume through your local network first, it will help your credibility immensely when you are going after the national awards, speaking gigs, and business profiles. Which leads us to…
- Google-ability: Your online presence is key to landing an interview. Most reporters worth their salt will, at a minimum, do a Google search on an individual or organization that they are considering for a story. If nothing comes up, they may pass you by. If, however, several awards, local stories and speaking gigs pop up from your local market, then they are going to feel like they discovered an up-and-comer. If you’ve built a byline library or had several op-eds published in your local paper, then those national publications are going to have a much better idea of your writing style and credibility. If you’ve given several talks, hosted panels and given keynotes at local events, then the national conferences are going to have greater confidence in your abilities to wow their audiences.
- Drive sales: Whether you are selling a service or a widget, looking for donors, board members or building a team of experts, your local market is always going to be a great place to start. Local press helps solidify your position in your hometown and at the end of the day, it drives sales and donations. The people in your community will most likely be your most ardent supporters, so stay top of mind by maintaining your presence in the local news.
Building your resume locally will drive national hits
Regardless of your PR goals — whether it is traditional media hits, speaking engagements or other forms of thought leadership — always remember local media hits will help you earn national placements. The time and effort spent locally pays off ten-fold, especially if you are just starting out with a PR program. Further, you may find those local hits help you reach your business or organizational goals faster than the national ones. Get started by:
- Reading the local news: Familiarize yourself with who the local reporters are, their beats, and what kinds of stories they write.
- Engaging: Start following and engaging with local reporters on social media. Share your stories, post content, begin to build your online presence and credibility.
- Pitching: Tell your story and offer story ideas to your local reporters. Once you know who is covering your industry or area of expertise, start reaching out to them. Let them know what amazing work you are doing and earn that first story placement.
When clients begin investing in their local media, we almost always start to see their PR wins snowball. Speaking gigs beget local awards, local awards yield local broadcast segments, op-eds open doors to long-format feature stories. And with time, effort, and a really good story, all of these local hits can eventually work towards getting that dream placement in the Wall Street Journal!