PR 101: Pitching Top Tier Local Daily Newspapers
Cision’s Media Research team reaches out to thousands of journalists each day in an effort to enhance our knowledge base. Here’s a few themes we’ve complied when researching a small cross section of top tier, high circulation, locally focused papers in various areas of the country.
Think local, local, local.
The major distinction with a local daily newspaper, even one with high circulation, is the focus on local stories, news and events. A national news story or national trend won’t really work at a paper like the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel or the Houston Chronicle; papers in this sphere tend to rely on the wires for coverage that is national or foreign, preferring that reporters focus on purely local news content, or a national trend that can be localized, a product that was invented locally, or a major business launching in the paper’s coverage area with an interesting story to tell and ramifications for the local economy. Think about a good angle that is at least regional, and at best, local.
Be mindful of the competition.
Pitching a paper like the Chicago Tribune requires some forethought. While every pitch requires adequate research to ensure the paper has not previously covered the story in question, it also behooves PR professionals to check out the competition, especially in a two-newspaper town like Chicago. If the Chicago Sun-Times has already covered a similar story, the Tribune is less likely to be interested. Just as a national paper such as The New York Times wants an exclusive story, with access to major players beyond a PR professional, so does a locally focused paper.
Take advantage of regional character.
Speaking of research, one of the best methods for determining an angle for trends, products, studies and so forth, is to do some research on the actual region and coverage area of the paper. Be mindful of current events there. The Mercury News, for example, is known for its stories on the local tech industry and Silicon Valley. The Denver Post installed a cannabis editor when recreational usage of marijuana was passed in Colorado. The Houston Chronicle has devoted editorial staff to energy coverage, being a locus of activity in this industry. Familiarity with a locality’s industry, characters and recent news shows journalists you’re thinking about the relevance of your pitch, and going the extra mile to anticipate their needs and really develop a unique angle for your pitch, tailored to the paper’s coverage.
Target beat reporters and section editors.
Along with that, it’s important to note that any local newspaper’s business editor or features editor is likely dealing with a large influx of email from the PR space on top of what is already a demanding role. Features editors, for example, typically oversee arts, entertainment, lifestyle, food, and possibly health or other unique content areas. Not every paper has reporters or editors devoted to every niche topic, so breaking through to one editor handling all of these topics can be daunting. In these cases, scan the editorial staff for specific niche section editors or beat reporters. Papers like the Chicago Tribune have devoted food editors and reporters, and getting on their radar may be easier to accomplish, and they may be more receptive when considering or replying to your pitch.
Remember the reader.
Above all, know that these pitching tips that journalists share are in the best interests of the paper’s audience. There is no paper without readers, and local readers are looking for news that applies to them, news they can use. It’s easy enough to look up national or international headlines on a mobile device. What makes local newspapers special is their potential to showcase the unique characters, stories and trends in a particular region; stories that no other paper can or would tell. There’s enormous power and reach in these stories, and they tend to have a lasting impact on audiences, and create a bond of trust between the newspaper and the reader, such that the audience can expect fair, accurate, timely and relevant reporting. If you let down the journalist with your pitch, you’re basically letting down the audience as well.
The Cision Media Research Team maintains a database of more than 1.6 million records, including social influencers, traditional media contacts, outlets and opportunities. We collect and maintain the latest contact and pitching information of bloggers and journalists who can spread your message, broaden your campaign and help you build relationships with the people who matter. To experience the Cision Media Database first hand, request a demo here.
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