Getting Your Brand in the Press

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The following post is one in a series of guest posts I am featuring this year. It’s written by Emily Dammeyer, Public Relations Manager of Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.  Emily and the whole PR team at Children’s National get some of the best national and local media coverage around, thanks to their perseverance and saavy (I can brag about them!).  Enjoy.-Amy

With today’s new economic realities, getting your brand and your message in front of the media is a growing challenge. Thanks to shrinking budgets, news producers are now being asked to do what used to be done by a reporter, producer, cameraman and sound tech. I’ve also noticed print reporters focusing a lot more on the web. This includes everything from creating unique content on the web (photo galleries, interactive tools, etc.) to negotiating embargoes that are best for the web.  The days of breaking an embargo at 6 am, when the newspapers hit the doorsteps, are gone.

More Expectations

Before you begin to develop a pitch, keep these things in mind:

  • Traditional beats are widening, so reporters are being bombarded with more information than ever before
  • With a greater need to create web content, reporters are under increasing pressure to get stories out quickly
  • Reduced staff means less time to devote to “soft” news stories

Change your Pitch

The strategy for pitching has evolved too. A basic press kit – fact sheet, release, bios – likely won’t cut it anymore. That’s because a simple written article isn’t what the reporter needs. Consider providing the following:

  • Packaged video content, including high-resolution b-roll
  • A photo gallery or illustration
  • A complementary story for an online edition

Understand your Audience

Larger outlets, like the Washington Post, have condensed or eliminated many of the softer sections (Home, Food, Health) and national bureaus to focus on politics and Washington news. The softer sections still exist, but in different forms. The Health section, for example, has no full-time staff writers, so the paper is dependent on freelancers. That can be good, because it means new people to pitch, but it can also make it harder to figure out who you should be pitching. The section has also been running more syndicated content, including that from Consumer Reports and Kaiser Health News.

To pitch a larger, traditional outlet, I find it best to keep the story focused on trends.  I could have the best medical story, but if it isn’t going to resonate with a national audience, it’s useless. But if I can find a way to tie in with a bigger story – such as health reform – my chances of getting noticed improve.  I’m also focusing more on building relationships with freelancers, as another avenue into some of the larger outlets.

On the other hand, more local or hyperlocal web-based outlets are popping up, providing a great opportunity to target a specific geographic area. To reach this audience, you have to make your pitch relevant. Provide a subject in the area to illustrate your point. Pull data from that certain area and have it ready for the reporter or blogger.

This changing media environment has definitely added some frustration.  But if we learn to adapt, I think there are great opportunities to get out strong messages.

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