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Importance of Knowing your Local Media

Many a business think they know their local media inside out.

It’s a notion borne from picking up the Metro every day on the train or coming home to the well-thumbed local paper placed on the kitchen table. It’s also an idea that is borne from complacency.

Reading your local paper, even knowing someone who works there, is a whole different ball game to understanding them. Sending snaps of a news story to your local news outlet on Twitter might make you feel like a citizen journalist, but pitching your business is a whole different story (pun intended).

Local newspapers aren’t just scaled-down national titles; they are a specialist environment. National newspapers swoop in and provide five minutes of fame to a local issue – maybe a one-minute segment on the news – but that’s it. Local news outlets, however, follow a story in close detail. Local journalists become experts in picking up on minute changes, on tiny details. In national news, it’s the story that’s the important part. In local media, it’s the impact. What does your news mean for your community?

That’s what you need to be receptive to. Your stories need to give local journalists a reason to bother. Just because you’ve made a new acquisition, don’t think that fact alone is good enough; does it mean more jobs? More money in the local community? Is your business front and centre of a region-wide boom in your industry? That is what understanding your local media entails; knowing inside and out the editorial agenda of your local paper and tailoring your news perfectly.

But why does it matter? Surely, local papers are crying out for stories – surely anything will do?

Absolutely not. They may need to fill column inches, but they’re picky people. Unless your story is well-tailored, as soon as a better lead comes in, you’re out. And if you haven’t worked hard to make it easy for the journalist, good luck trying to get back in. Good, tight and well edited material that can be published with the minimum amount of changes is what they’re after. Understand what your journalist wants from a press release and tailoring your message accordingly is the key to building long and fruitful relationships.

Understanding your local paper also means knowing who’s who. Keeping up with beat changes is vital. A new journalist taking on your patch might want to run stories with a different bent to their predecessor and running the same old storylines is going to get you nowhere – other than on their nerves, of course. Journalists hate their inbox filling up with irrelevant emails and it’s amazing how quickly your well-crafted press release can become junk.

A new journalist might come into a different area, so have you thought about pitching something radically different? Even new editors can be an opportunity and doing your research allows you to become ambitious with your stories. If you put in a little effort, why not dare to go for the front page?

With a little effort and a bit of inquisition, working with your local media becomes a dream. No longer do your emails just sit in their inbox; the relationship becomes not purely transactional, but symbiotic. If you provide great stories, they’ll provide great coverage. Anything else isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.

A thought piece from Karol – the forensic PR people.