Why Securing Local Media Coverage is STILL Essential for a Brand’s Strategy

By: Jackie Flaten, 1903 PR

In planning and developing a media strategy, going after the biggest fish doesn’t always make the most sense when aligning to overall business objectives. In fact, a single minded obsession with getting into top-tier outlets like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, can derail a media campaign altogether. Your ideal target press can very likely be right in your proverbial backyard.

Some years ago I worked with a client while at a consumer public relations firm and we often saw first hand how getting publicity in the right outlet is critical to business goals. In this case, we landed a listing in the coveted New York Times holiday gift guide, print circulation over half a million. Our client made exactly zero sales from that news coverage and a negligible amount of web traffic coincided with that coverage. 

While the readership numbers were immense, it wasn’t necessarily the audience where her company’s offerings resonated. Three months later, we secured a mention of the same item in a small, local home interior publication, with a readership of barely 3,000. Her product sold out overnight and the rush of interest also crashed her servers. A smaller number of people who actually care about the subject matter is always more important than a huge number of those who are indifferent.

Your local print and broadcast outlets are much more likely to pay attention to you – it’s literally their business to cover local companies and stories. Getting editorial interest from your local press can help you hit your business goals, whether it be attracting new talent, selling products, or securing funding. 

Most businesses are trying to attract customers from a relatively small radius. National coverage won’t always propel these buyers to your company. Local news sources hold a lot of power over their audience compared to larger national publications. People are more likely to be interested and trust their local news sources, and with newsrooms shrinking every day, there are countless opportunities to collaborate with them. Spending time cultivating relationships and establishing mutual trust is beneficial for both you and the local press. 

Companies that are just starting to promote their brand can start by building a reputation and credibility at a local level. Set up a meeting with the local news editor or broadcast station manager just to introduce yourself and your company, without attaching an “ask” for coverage. Help them to understand your market proposition, your history, expertise, and how your business impacts the community. Offer to provide a non-self-promotional take on news related to your industry to provide a well-rounded perspective. 

When you do have news or company announcements to share, package your story idea with a local angle and concisely describe why it matters to your local market. Smaller local newsrooms are not receiving hundreds of pitch ideas daily like the national outlets do. You can break through the noise and get local editorial attention if you have a story angle that is geared to their specific audience.Because let’s be completely frank, if your local media won’t give you the time of day, why would broader national media. 

Landing national media coverage takes an extraordinary amount of time and resources. These publications have strict standards as to what they deem newsworthy, and aren’t necessarily reaching your ideal audience. If your company’s news does not meet the threshold for what these outlets require, you’re wasting your efforts that are better spent cultivating local and regional press.

Sometimes there can be a resistance to working with local media; because of its familiarity and ubiquitous nature, it doesn’t seem as glamorous or impactful as national press. When your company has news that actually merits national coverage, the first thing the top-tier outlets will do in vetting your media proposal is look to see what coverage you already have earned. If your local area media hasn’t covered your company, this is a less-than-positive appraisal of your market standing. Building up these local relationships will establish a public company historical archive, and benefit you for the long term.

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