For small businesses, charity organisations, sports clubs and community groups, the local media is at the centre of their PR strategy. Articles and slots help to bring in that new customer, volunteer or player because they recall the name they heard or read. Picking up the phone and sending emails don't always work and penetrating the pages and airwaves can be daunting, dispiriting and downright tough. However, in this age of PR 2.0., local newspapers, radio stations, magazine and individual journalists are gradually using social networking sites more and more to find inspiration for articles. Are you using Facebook or Twitter to tell your friends you had toast for breakfast or are you targeting the media who matter to you?
Why can't we get on the radio or in the paper?
Some groups trying to find a way of getting in the media find it easy and never seem to fail - "not them again, why can't we?". Whether their stories are about wonderful community projects, like a new playground, or they are about drama and opposition, like a campaign against the local council, they appear again and again because they have worked really hard at building a relationship with at least one of the reporters. The reporter trusts that group offers a relevant and quality story. Contacting the local media by email can be effective but a phone call explaining your story is better. Follow it up with a press release if you can but if you're not confident enough to write a press release, bullet points are fine. Sometimes reporters are lazy, dim or miserable but usually they're busy. If you keep reminding them you are there, one day you'll be offering them a solution to an empty slot or maybe they'll call on you as an expert in your field.
It's not that easy making friends with journalists and I'm not suggesting it's because they are unfriendly - their job is to find the best stories in a short space of time so they're pretty stressed and busy people, even the weekly local papers are up against it, often with only one or two writers. If it sounds like they're not listening on the phone they're probably not and emails often don't get opened and especially not acknowledged. So, to increase your chances of catching the eye of your local radio, newspaper, lifestyle or what's on magazine and to build a relationship with a reporter the new media way, make sure you're using a social networking website to its full potential.
How to target the local media with Facebook and Twitter
Specific radio programmes, like your local public broadcast breakfast show, newspapers and magazines have Facebook groups and Twitter accounts, so after you have a database of your local media, search them out and link in with them. Check your feeds and their pages or even listen to the radio live for current topics and news. If you have a relevant comment to add to the discussion, write on their wall or send a message - if it's read out on air or printed then you've got a quick mention without a lot of effort. Soon they should realise you're a good contact when it comes to X, Y and Z. They might then pay a little more attention the next time you call with a story or they might contact you if they want a person to interview about some breaking news in your field.
Reporters and presenters often have their own accounts on Facebook so send them a message introducing yourself and send them a friend request. If they do accept, be aware of not pestering them too much as Facebook is often used as a personal social networking tool. For Twitter, follow them and by interacting with them in a professional manner with @username replies and mentions, you might entice them to follow you back. If they're following you they'll be reading your tweets, so don't forget to create pertinent news and comments related to you and your field. It's the same for your Facebook and remember to occasionally use links to your website if you have one, that way if a journalist wants more information they can find it with a click. For the same reason make sure you have a good biog and information on your accounts. Journalists stuck for a story might tweet or update their status for help so keep an eye on your feed. You could be the expert they need to interview or sometimes they're having a slow day and desperate for any news, either way it's more valuable publicity.
Social networking sites haven't replaced any of the traditional ways that reporters look for stories but they have added an extra dimension to the process. I would suggest that if you've had trouble trying to build a relationship with your local media before or if you want to be ahead of your competitors, think digital PR. To fully maximise your use of social media, it's always best to procure the expertise of a Social Media Agency but in the meantime try spending a bit more time learning who the relevant media and journalists are for you and target them strategically through Facebook and Twitter.
Share your stories
Have you had success with traditional print or broadcast media by targeting them through social media? Are you a journalist who uses social media in this way?