How to Pitch Local Media Outlets
November 11th 2021
While your business may serve a national or even global customer base, your local news and broadcast outlets are likely to be the most interested in learning about your company. Since their purpose is reporting on local people, organizations, and events, news about you and your business fits right into what many area media outlets want to report on.
And the publicity that can result is one of the best and cheapest ways to promote your business.
That’s because not only is the media coverage free (versus advertising or some other kind of promotion), but with each quote or mention comes the implied third-party endorsement of the media outlet. Assuming the article topic is positive, your company’s reputation can only be enhanced when readers see you’ve been interviewed in the local business magazine or in the daily newspaper. The natural assumption is that you’re successful, and that’s why the reporter interviewed you.
Local publicity can also be leveraged to pursue national or industry attention.
Believe it or not, catching the attention of local news and broadcast reporters isn’t as difficult as you might expect.
The key is coming up with article ideas that are related to your company, but that go beyond simply profiling you. Profiles are fantastic, but it’s typically harder to convince a reporter to write a piece only about your business. Better to come up with topics that also quote you, rather than being the sole focus.
Proposing Potential Articles
What you need to do is suggest article topics, also known as “pitching.”
Pitching article ideas is a 4-step process that begins with studying the newspaper, magazine, or website you want to be featured in.
- Do your research. That means looking at the different sections of, say, the paper, to identify the type of news each section covers. Make a list of what you see as the different departments.
That might include business, sports, personal finance, home and real estate, national news, and/or other subjects.
Then, read each section to identify the types of articles that are written. Are they profiles of a single person or organization? Are they how-to pieces? Do they tie local happenings to national trends? Do they quote experts or local residents?
- Brainstorm article ideas. Now that you’re more familiar with each section of your local paper (or magazine or website), it’s time to think up different topics that could fit within those sections.
Daily newspapers want topics that are timely, meaning happening now or in the next week. The same is generally true of websites, since they can update their content quickly.
Magazines want pitches for topics relevant two to three months in advance; printing and distribution takes that long, so don’t bother pitching a magazine an idea for next month. You’re too late at that point.
Using what you observed from your read of your newspaper, magazine, or website, think about what articles might be of interest to your local community that have to do with your business—not just a write-up describing your company, but having to do with what you sell, how you sell, and who you sell to.
For example, let’s say you run a gift shop and you’re having a special artist demonstration next month. Given the timeframe, you know this is only appropriate for newspapers and websites. Some of the possible articles you could pitch around this one event include:
- A piece about the event itself, offering to connect the arts reporter with the artist who will be in town, for an interview.
- A calendar listing inviting members of the public to attend the demonstration.
- A trends piece about the type of art being demonstrated and why it has caught on recently; why it has become increasingly popular in the last few months.
- A round-up article about women artists, including the one coming in to provide the demonstration.
- A business article about how effective in-store demonstrations are in generating sales.
- A piece offering tips to other gift shops for scheduling effective demonstrations or events
These are just ideas to get you started, but think about your business and all the different angles that might be of interest to a reporter.
- Find your contact. Once you have a specific idea for an article you want to pitch, you need to track down the name and contact information for the editor who is responsible for that particular department. If you’re reading a print newspaper or magazine, there is usually a masthead—often a page or section of a page near the front—that lists all of the reporters and editors.
If you can’t find that list in print, use Google to identify who the appropriate person is to connect with.
- Send a summary of your pitch. When you have an idea and you know who is most likely to be responsible for writing it, send an email summarizing your idea. In the subject line of your email, you could write “Article idea,” to make it clear why you’re getting in touch.
This should be a 3- to 4-paragraph summary of who you are, what your suggestion is for an article, with details regarding why that reporter would be interested (because it’s a local event, represents a local trend, or ties into a national news piece, for example), and an offer to share more information if they’re interested.
Keep in mind that you’re not offering to write the article, nor are you sending a draft of what you’d like to see in print. You’re sending an idea that would include quoting you as a resource.
Another Approach: Write a Press Release
Now, if you want to have a little more control over what is written, you could instead draft a press release and send it out to multiple media outlets at once in the hopes that they use will that information in an upcoming story.
Press releases are designed to make announcements, primarily, so you could prepare one if you want to share information about:
- An upcoming event
- An honor or award your business received
- A new location
- A new product or service
- A new partnership or joint venture
- A new employee
- An employee who was promoted
Press releases are not appropriate to pitch individual articles, however.
Hubspot has a useful article on how to format a press release, along with some free templates, if you decide you’d rather send something out en masse.
Pursuing media coverage in local newspapers, magazines, bulletins, and community gazettes is a great first step to landing national publicity, and a smart way to raise awareness of your company’s existence within your local community.