Meet the Media: How to Reach the Locals

Meet Barbara Kate Repa, Publisher of The New Fillmore. Barbara shares valuable tips for pitching local media. 
Barbara Kate RepaMy husband and I publish The New Fillmore, a monthly newspaper with a circulation of 20,000 that covers a few neighborhoods spanning the heart of San Francisco. Technology plays an essential role here, of course. But many people don’t recognize most of their Facebook friends if they see them on the street—and that underscores their craving for true community. Many search out the local newspaper that comes to their doorsteps filled with news of what’s happening in their own front yards: what business is taking over the empty space on the corner, why the grocery store checker is retiring after decades on the job, tidbits of history of those who lived and worked there before them.
Neighborhood newspapers provide slow news in a world often moving too fast. It gives neighbors a way to connect with others they see on the street, in the coffee shop, standing in line at the local theatre. “Hyperlocal” is overused these days, but it’s the very stuff that makes a good community newspaper—the kind of news you don’t get in online blasts or on the pages of dailies.
It’s a stage perfectly set for PR professionals to make a helpful difference and to get clients before a ready readership. But few do. And email pitches seem to be the worst offenders. Here are some reminders about avoiding a few common blunders.
Know your audience—and their audience. In this morning’s email inbox, alongside the pitches for Cents-Off Savings on Viagra and pleas from Lonely Women Ready to Meet Tonight were a legion of messages from various PR firms that felt just as spammy. One was from an organization offering a story on practical tips on caulking the house to ward off snow. Another begged an interview with a New York attorney about the high cost of legal services there. A third offered an insider’s look at a recently published report: “Competing Interests in China’s Competition Law Enforcement: China’s Anti-Monopoly Law Application and the Role of Industrial Policy.
Our paper covers snow-free San Francisco, so all of no use.
Before you push the button on a group email pitch, do a little sleuthing on the recipients. Learn the basics of the publications: their frequency, the geographic region covered, the usual tone and style. If publications don’t use canned writing, don’t clutter the editors’ mailboxes proposing them. A simple caring connection, such as “Thought you and your readers might be interested in this new book by an author who lives in your midst” will get noticed—and appreciated. If you’re unsure, call the editors to ask for a brief chat about how you can help best with the kind of stories they need.
Pitch perfectly. When it comes to making email typos or being the unwitting victim of autocorrect, we all have to plead guilty. And while you still only get one chance to make a first impression, it gets made a whole lot faster online. Take a minute to reread your pitches to establish yourself from the start as a competent, dependable resource.
Just a couple examples of email pitches recently received that missed their marks from the get-go:
One was addressed to {FIRST_NAME there, }.
The other noted:“I’m providing these documents as you may plan to editorialize on these props.” No mention of the topic of the aforementioned props—and the links to the first three attachments didn’t work; didn’t bother with the other six.
Deliver what you promise. Whether it’s scheduling an interview with a source, forwarding appropriate photos, or supplying background information, provide what you promised when you said you’d deliver—or even better, provide it early. Sounds like common manners—and it is. But surprising how often the manners aren’t minded. There is no second chance to meet a missed deadline.
Get out of the way. Once you’ve done your job by providing the information or contacts you promised, be available if more guidance is needed—especially close to the publication’s press deadline. But avoid contacting the editors for progress reports and updates before then. It will feel like hectoring—and it is.
 Questions or comments on reaching local media? Share your thoughts below or send an email to Barbara at [email protected].

6 thoughts on “Meet the Media: How to Reach the Locals

  1. I particularly appreciate the “get out of the way” advice — this is an idea that many new clients don’t understand. We all have a job to do… The client provides the news. The PR pro shares the news with appropriate, targeted writers. The reporters absorb the news and shape the message to fit readers’ needs. Thanks for posting Barbara!

  2. Barbara – thanks for the sage advice. Most people don’t know this little tidbit, but neighborhood newspapers are the one area of print media that are still aggressively growing. Thanks for doing such a great job covering our neighborhood! Cheers, David

  3. Barbara- Thanks so much for contributing to our blog! These are all great tips. My favorite: “know your audience- and their audience.” I agree that research is definitely a key component of pitching. I’ll be sure to keep your advice in mind for my next pitch.
    Best,
    Elena

  4. Hi Barbara, thanks for the great post. It’s true Facebook connects us with our virtual communities, but neighborhood papers allow a more comprehensive snapshot into our physical surroundings.

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