Media Outreach Materials
How to Conduct Media Outreach: Tips for Working with the Media
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Back to Media Outreach Materials
This section provides guidance on how to pitch story ideas involving P.A.D. to the media, including strategies for securing coverage/promotion around your P.A.D.—related activities and events. Other important factors and considerations discussed in this section include the suggested timelines for reaching different media; the importance of meeting deadlines; and tips for how to deliver thorough, yet concise, information to the media.
General Tips for Working with the Media
Media outreach, or media relations, is an ongoing process. Building a relationship with the media can be an important component of your organization's community outreach efforts. The media can help spread your message effectively and widely. When you work with the media, keep in mind that their job is to draw readers, viewers, or listeners to their outlet by running relevant, compelling, and localized stories. Following are some basic considerations for building effective relationships with the media:
- Consider lead times. Each media outlet will likely have its own preference for how far in advance it would like to receive information for a potential story. For example, most monthly magazines prefer to receive materials for consideration 3 to 5 months in advance, newsletters often require receipt of information 4 to 6 weeks before printing, and daily newspapers may only need 1 week to develop and run a story. By securing editorial calendars for print publications or by contacting editors/producers at individual outlets you can get a good sense of how early they need to receive information.
- Know the reporter. Reporters typically have a "beat" or issue they cover. For example, your local newspaper may have a reporter who covers issues related to Medicare, or retirement, or women's health. Consider monitoring the coverage of reporters who seem to consistently cover issues that could connect to P.A.D. Knowing a reporter's work before you contact them will help you gauge their interest in P.A.D. and tailor your conversations to their interests and areas of expertise. Being able to reference or cite recent coverage back to the reporter who wrote it can be a sign to a journalist that you take their work seriously, making the connection more meaningful.
- Return calls or e-mails promptly. If a reporter or editor shows interest in your pitch by calling you back or responding to your e-mail, aim to followup with them as quickly as possible, particularly if they have an impending deadline. Demonstrating your responsiveness is an effective way to build your credibility and to position yourself as a reliable source, making reporters more likely to consider you as a source for future related stories.
- Be sensitive to deadlines. Reporters usually work under tight deadlines and often need information quickly. For example, it's ideal to begin your outreach to newspaper reporters early in the morning between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. You're more likely to get voice mail if you try and pitch a reporter after 12 p.m., when they're working to meet their daily deadlines. Be proactive about asking reporters for their deadlines so you're aware of them in the future.
- Be accommodating but do not over promise. Reporters who express interest in your story may want to interview more than one expert or may ask for additional information about P.A.D. Try to be as accommodating as you can, but also try and manage their expectations. Before you begin reaching out to the media, you should identify your local spokespeople, including health care providers, patients, and community partners, as well as their willingness to talk to the media about P.A.D.
How to Pitch a Story
A media pitch is a suggested news story idea or a proposed article you provide to a reporter or editor. Pitches can be made via telephone, or in written correspondence (e-mail or U.S. Postal Service mail). Each reporter or editor will likely have his or her own preference for how she or he wants to be contacted, and you can find out by simply asking.
The goal of your pitch is to engage a reporter and give them the tools and resources to develop a compelling story about P.A.D. Included in this chapter are a sample pitch letter and script that can be tailored to fit the different media outlets in your community and customized to suit your organization's events and activities. The following are illustrative tips to consider when you call a reporter:
- Create and practice your pitch. Before picking up the phone, practice verbalizing your talking points. Make sure your pitch answers: Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How?
- If at first you don't succeed, try again. When targeting a particular publication, radio station, or TV affiliate, consider identifying several reporters or editors at that same outlet who might be interested in your story. For example, if you find that the health reporter at your local newspaper is unlikely to cover your story, try reaching out to the lifestyle reporter with a slightly different angle, or the columnist who covers retirement issues. There are usually multiple angles you can put on any issue. In other words, before you start picking up the phone, identify how many ways you can tell the story of P.A.D. and who it impacts.
- Make it relevant. Make sure the story idea you are proposing is suitable for the reporter you are calling. For example, if you're trying to engage a reporter who typically covers the baby boomer generation in your community, consider positioning P.A.D. as a disease that anyone over the age of 50 needs to know about. Make it locally relevant by finding local patients who identify with the baby boomer generation who can talk about how P.A.D. affected their lifestyle and overall health. If you can, localize it even further by providing statistics on the number of people in your community who are likely to be diagnosed with P.A.D.
- Be concise and respect deadlines. You should start your call by asking, "Is this a good time to talk?" Ask the reporter about his or her deadline or when their editorial meetings take place. This will help inform your pitches in the future. Reporters may not have time to listen to or read long-winded pitches if they are on deadline.
- Be clear, concise, and convincing. If you need to leave a message, speak clearly and be sure to provide your contact information early in the message, because reporters may not choose to or have time to listen to your entire message. Avoid providing too many details or talking points in a voice message. This can also be unappealing to a reporter, who may determine they are not interested based on your message. Aim to tease a reporter with language that may pique their interest. For instance, "I want to talk to you about a widely unknown disease that raises your risk of heart attack and stroke."
- Followup. Always provide a reporter with followup communication. For example, if you had a conversation with a reporter who seemed interested, you should aim to followup that same day with an e-mail containing supporting, value-added information. This can help build your relationship and credibility with the media.
A creative pitch provides a "story"—the basic facts about P.A.D. do not change but the context around it can be crafted for different audiences or publications. Here are some examples of P.A.D.-related pitches that may appeal to different audiences in slightly different ways:
- Cardiovascular Disease Doesn't Stop at the Heart
When people think of cardiovascular disease, they typically think heart attack. There is another cardiovascular disease that can be just as deadly that affects your legs—peripheral arterial disease, or P.A.D.
- Customize this pitch by offering a local physician who has treated P.A.D. patients to talk about risk reduction and treatment options.
- Doing What it Takes to Stay in Circulation
An important factor in staying active in your golden years is the health and well-being of your legs. Our legs are often taken for granted, but they are critical to ensuring our lifestyles remain active, mobile, and independent. There are tests and screenings for cholesterol, heart disease, osteoporosis, and arthritis. But did you know there is also a simple, painless test to assess your risk for a potentially deadly disease called peripheral arterial disease, or P.A.D.?
- Invite the reporter to observe an ankle brachial index (ABI) test being conducted. Even better, invite the reporter to take an ABI test.
- Keeping up with Grandchildren—Leading with Your Legs
Being a grandparent is a wonderful time in a person's life when he or she can be caring companions, thrilled and honored to spend time with grandchildren. However, being a grandparent can also be exhausting at times. Running after grandchildren, bending and squatting to pick up toys and lifting grandchildren can be taxing on a grandparent's body. But talk to most grandparents and they'd say they wouldn't have it any other way. While small children often make great walking partners for grandparents with slower gaits, it's important for grandparents to make sure their legs are up to the demands of being a grandparent.
Leg health is often taken for granted. If our legs look good on the outside, they must be okay on the inside. Unfortunately that isn't always the case. Eight to 12 million Americans over the age of 50 are living with a potentially deadly disease that affects their legs. It's called peripheral arterial disease, or P.A.D.
- Customize this pitch by identifying some grandparents in the community who have been diagnosed with P.A.D. and treated successfully and who are willing to tell their personal stories.
- New Year's Resolutions—Taking Stock of Your Health
New Year's Eve is a time to celebrate and dance the night away. Everyone wants to look good on the dance floor. Our legs are often taken for granted, but they are critical to ensuring our lifestyles remain active, mobile, and independent. If our legs look good on the outside, they must be okay on the inside. Unfortunately that isn't always the case. There are tests and screenings for cholesterol, heart disease, osteoporosis, and arthritis. But did you know there is also a simple, painless test to assess your risk for a potentially deadly disease called peripheral arterial disease, or P.A.D.?
- Customize this pitch by including personal stories about how people are celebrating the New Year by paying attention to their leg health.
Other Pitch Ideas
- Highlight a local seniors hobby group (such as a dancing class, group of golf buddies, or a group of walkers) and what they do to stay young and active. P.A.D. can affect mobility but with early detection and treatment, people can resume their normal activities.
- On Mother's or Father's Day, encourage parents to take care of their health, including leg health.
Tips for Getting Media Coverage for Your Event
If you are considering planning a Stay in Circulation event in your community—such as a screening or a walk-a-thon-your pitch can focus on encouraging the media to cover your event.
- Invite a local media outlet to cosponsor the event. This can give the outlet an opportunity to be part of a public service event and may even get your organization some free publicity through the outlet's promotion of their involvement prior to the event.
- Invite reporters to participate in the event. This gives them an opportunity to be part of the event and experience it, which increases the likelihood that they will do a media story about it. Consider contacting a local news anchor to be a team captain or an honorary emcee.
- Paint a visual picture. If you are talking to a television producer, try to highlight aspects of your event that would make for good television. Give the editor an idea of the visual. Without an appealing visual or footage (b-roll), it is unlikely a television station will send a camera crew to cover your event. If a station is unable to commit a crew to your event right away, don't give up. Followup with the station the day before and the morning of your event. If there are no competing stories that day, the station may send a crew to cover your event.
- Followup after the event. After your event, write a summary report and distribute it to the reporters you invited. Include key numbers (e.g., number of attendees, number of people screened) and highlight any unique event features (e.g., an entire company wore purple). If there are photographs available from the event, include one or more of them with a caption including names and titles of those in the photograph that really illustrates the success of the event.
- Let them know how they helped. If a local reporter covered or participated in your event, and their participation led to success (such as increased number of attendees at future events), let them know. They may be interested in doing a followup story.
Media outreach checklist and timeline
The key to media outreach success is to plan ahead and be flexible. Generally, the more time you have to pitch your story and build a relationship with a reporter, the better. However, that may not always be possible. The following is a sample checklist and timeline for alerting the media about your event or activity:
- Four weeks before the event
- Send a pitch letter or e-mail to print and broadcast journalists to invite them to participate or emcee the event.
- Three weeks before the event
- Send a pitch letter or e-mail to reporters, editors, and producers encouraging them to cover or attend your event.
- One week before the event
- Send a media advisory to local television stations and newspapers via e-mail or fax.
- Start calling reporters once the media advisory has been distributed.
- Based on the nature of your event, contact television producers to discuss the best times for shooting.
- Day before the event
- Resend the media advisory and continue to followup with reporters.
- Check in with reporters who expressed reporters to schedule onsite interviews.
- Followup with television stations to assess camera crew availability.
- Day of the event
- Distribute press release announcing the event to all media outlets. Bring copies to have on hand at the event and to provide to any attending reporters.
- Continue to make followup calls the morning of your event.
- Followup with television stations again to determine if any will be sending camera crews.
At the Event
- Have all members of the media sign in with their contact information for tracking and followup purposes.
- Introduce yourself to all media who attend the event. Provide them with your contact information and introduce them to local physician experts or patients attending the event.
- Following the event
- Followup with members of the media who attended your event to make sure they received all of the information they need to complete their story.
- Monitor the media outlets that attended your event for media coverage