Press releases (also called news releases) are one of the best recipes to have on hand to generate free publicity. But if you really want to attract the media to partake, you need to give them a good reason. And that reason is: you’ve got a great story.
One of the easiest ways to do this is what the people in the news business call ‘piggybacking.’ ‘Piggybacking’ simply mean localizing a national story.
Why is this important? Local news is the local media’s bread and butter. Any time they can find someone in their area who can offer background, commentary or story ideas that piggyback off a national event, or someone who is part of a national trend, they will usually bite.
In fact, piggybacking plays a major role in local newsrooms across the country. Reporters often search for hours for someone who can shed new light on a national news story – and give the story a more ‘neighborhood’ perspective.
For example, one of the best piggybacking stories I was pitched when I was a TV reporter was during the time when anthrax and chemical warfare were big on the national news. A local army-navy store owner called me saying that because of the scare, gas masks were flying off the shelves. The store owner got great coverage, and my story was used in local broadcasts across the state – and covered as a print story on the Associated Press wire service, one of the largest distributors of news to the media.
Here are some of the best ways to give a national news story a local spin:
- Human Interest – These are stories of people that capture deep emotions or feelings. Remember Baby Jessica, the little girl who fell down the well and got stuck? That’s a human interest story. Now what if you had done a similar type of rescue? Or you were stuck in a hole for a long time? Wouldn’t sharing your experiences be of interest to people in your area? You bet!
- Tips and Advice – These stories provide information on how to solve a problem. This is where you can establish your expertise. If the national news was featuring a story on the increase in obese children and you were a weight loss counselor, you could offer tips to the local media on how parents can help their children lose weight without the kids feeling deprived.
- Tragedy or Crisis – Think about the top news stories every day. I’ll bet you more than half involve some type of breaking news crisis. Like the army-navy store owner, you should think if you have a story that relates to a tragedy or crisis.
- Holiday/Event Tie-Ins – Can your topic be connected to a holiday or national event, such as Valentine’s Day, Secretary’s Day, Small Business Week? Then you’ve got a great hook. Take a look at Chase’s Directory of Events or Celebrate Today online or in the library to get more ideas of holidays and events.
- Current affairs – What’s coming up that’s going to be mentioned in the news frequently and how can you tie your product or service in to it? Just before the presidential debates, I sent out a release about what to look for in a good debater for a client who teaches people how to make better public speeches. He was featured on several radio programs nationwide.