10 Steps to Media Success—Part 1 of a 2 Part Series

In Part 1, we cover the first five steps to media success, including how to create a story that’s newsworthy and what you need to do to prepare to pitch your idea to the media. Next week, in Part 2, you’ll learn how to pitch your story to the media and prepare for an interview, as well as what you need to do after the story runs.

Getting your program the attention it deserves is a whole lot easier with the help of the media. And it doesn’t require a public relations (PR) degree to do it. With some preparation, achieving media coverage is easier than you think. Here’s how to get started.

1. Identify your best opportunities for media coverage.

There are two types of news—hard news and feature stories. For hard news, reporters want something new or revolutionary, such as a new program, service, or findings.  If the national media is covering a topic related to tobacco use, contact your local media and tell them what is happening locally that can tie into the national story. Reporters love local angles and statistics on national news topics. Watch for news stories on the Global Bridges homepage, and forward them to your local media with a brief description of what you’re doing that ties in to the bigger story.

For feature stories, the media is interested in attention grabbing stories about everyday people. For these types of stories, think about what you tell people outside of work. If you and your friends find it interesting, the media may too. Look for case studies that are interesting or unique, such as someone who needed to quit tobacco use due to serious illness or other critical situation, a patient who learned how to quit and then was able to help others, or maybe a group of people who were able to quit together.

2. Reach out to your organization’s PR staff.

If you have a PR office, contact them for help. Many organizations have a policy requiring all media contact go through this department. Because these individuals work with the media regularly, they may already have existing relationships with reporters or advice about which media would be the best fit for your story.

If you don’t have a PR department, then reach out directly to the media. You can approach news assignment editors and health/medical reporters. You will need to do a little research in this area (look at the media’s website or call and ask for names).

3. Prepare your materials.

You’ll need 1) a press release, and 2) a fact sheet. Be sure to include any relevant data and statistics, as well as real life examples. Check your facts and have a source for every item. You’ll also need to prepare a brief biography for each expert (even if it’s yourself). These materials need to be clear and concise—never more than one page each.

If there’s something that you really need published in the article, like your web address, point out why it would be helpful to readers. Always be sure to include your e-mail address, phone number, or other contact information.

4. Determine your timing.

If your story is tied to hard news, then you will need to act quickly (24 hours). If it’s a feature, look for opportunities to tie your topic to something timely. Reporters are not generally interested in announcements, but if you offer them a story on trends or advances in tobacco control, they just might be interested. Reporters are usually looking for new and interesting topics to cover that are related to holidays and recognition days, such as New Year’s resolutions, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, the Great American Smoke out, and Men’s Health Month.

5. Practice your pitch.

You’ve got 30 seconds or less to capture a reporter’s attention. Your pitch needs to be clear and concise. Say what the story is and what makes it important to the reporter’s audience. Write it down and practice it until you can deliver it in 30 seconds or less. Refine it until it’s as close to perfect as possible.

Watch for next week’s post, where you’ll learn how to pitch your story to the media and prepare for an interview, as well as what you need to do after the story runs.