Getting coverage in your local press may not have the kudos of being featured in national newspapers but it often delivers a better return on investment, especially to locally-based businesses.
For small businesses, local newspapers are a more realistic target for press coverage than the national press. Readers of local papers want to read about local news, stories and events so if you can help a journalist deliver this, then you are well on the way to getting valuable press coverage for your business.
You have a good news story to share with the world, but which publications should you send it to? Who do you want to read it and where will it get the most coverage?
Obviously, the national press offers the opportunity to be seen by the most people. The Sunday Times, The Guardian, The Telegraph – all well-read, high kudos publications. Or The Sun, The Express, The Daily Mail? Possibly less well-regarded, but still very popular and highly influential.
If you are aiming for your story to be seen by the maximum audience, surely these are the publications to go for? Well, sometimes yes, if you have a very strong, news-led story. But there are other avenues which could work better for you.
Local press may be perceived as the poor relation of the national press, but it can be an extremely powerful marketing tool, and has several distinct advantages over national media. Here’s how to maximise the potential of local press.
1. Identify your PR audience
If PR is an important part of your marketing strategy (and I’d advise that it should be), you need to have a clearly planned strategy.
PR should not aim to directly persuade – it is all about communication, so your starting point should be deciding exactly who you are trying to communicate with (developing customer personas is key to this, but that’s a whole other article).
Your target demographic might be ‘everybody’ but be careful of this strategy as it is likely to dilute your message. In my experience, you will be much more successful if you focus on a specific demographic differentiated by a range of factors such as gender, age or interests.
You also need to be clear about whether your target audience is the general public, a niche demographic or local businesses.
Next identify where your potential clients come from. If you are an accountancy practice based in Birmingham, your clients are high unlikely to come from Bristol – they will be located nearby.
So, find out what local newspapers, radio stations, TV programmes, magazines and websites exist in your area. Which are well read or watched and fit the profile of your ideal client? Then target these communication platforms.
2. Building relationships
By identifying key publications, you will then find it easier to build relationships with the journalists who work there. This is much easier to do with local journalists who will already be interested in you because you have a local story to tell.
If they already know of your company, so much the better. Drop them an email to introduce yourself and offer to be on hand to comment on any relevant story so you are their go-to contact for stories in your particular industry.
However, just because it is local news doesn’t mean that they will publish anything and everything that you send their way. Any story needs to have proper news angle to it and be relevant and interesting to their audience.
Bombarding journalists with advertorial disguised as news will not build a mutually beneficial relationship – and could get your email blocked.
3. Positive spin
One of the benefits of local media is that they are more likely to be interested in putting a positive spin on a local news story.
Of course, depending on the nature of the story, that isn’t always the case but generally local media are keen to promote their region and the good things about it. They have a sense of obligation to the community that they operate in and ultimately, the local media benefits from a thriving local economy.
You may also have more influence and control over how a story is presented than in the national press which may be looking for a more sensational – and possibly negative – angle.
4. A broad reach
There is some talk about the death of local newspapers and it’s certainly true that local media is having to evolve and create a digital footprint to survive.
People may define local media as newspapers – but in fact, local PR offers so much more than that now.
For example, many local newspapers and radio stations have a wide following on platforms like Twitter and Facebook who like to engage and interact. This exposure in different channels also helps to ensure that your news gets wider coverage and reaches different demographics.
Newspapers are still well-read in the local community and because they are local, a significant proportion of that audience could be interested in your services.
For example, our local newspaper is read by around 20,000 people each year and has around 7,000 followers on Twitter. So, a publication with a good online presence and well used social platforms is a great option.
There are also many forms of local media, including radio and TV news programmes.
Our regional radio station covers a relatively small radius but is well listened to by a wide range of people who also look on the website, Facebook and Twitter for useful information such as traffic updates, weather and breaking news. This captures a wide demographic – again all of whom could potentially be interested in your services.
5. Clearly targeted
It’s also possible to target your news more carefully in the local media. Identify what you want to promote and adapt the content and news platform accordingly.
For example, local newspapers tend to be well read by an older demographic whilst younger clients are more likely to go online.
Most regions also have an active business press so if you are interested in B2B communication, local chamber of commerce or commercial business news organisations could prove excellent vehicles for media coverage.
Some local newspapers also have business reporters, so again, it’s worth doing your research and contacting these people directly.
6. Return on investment
There’s no doubt that it’s more difficult and time-consuming to get into the national press. You need a very strong story and you will be up against fierce competition.
Journalists on national publications get hundreds of press releases and pitches every day, so just having your email opened is an achievement. Busy journalists are also likely to block anyone who continually contacts them with weak stories, so only reach out if you have a story that is genuinely newsworthy on the national stage.
So, although national media offers widespread coverage, you can waste lots of time and money trying to get featured.
Furthermore, unless you have a nationwide client base, it is also quite likely that most of the people reading it won’t be interested in you and what you do.
So, why waste all that time and energy trying to get published in the national media when you have an audience that is far more likely to be interested in your services, on your doorstep?
However, don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s easy to get high quality coverage in the local media. Like all areas of PR, it takes planning, research and skill to identify the right publications and the right stories. After all, that’s why so many companies pay the experts like us to help.
This guide has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Helen Campbell, Head of PR at The Ideal Marketing Company, a full service marketing and PR agency based in Leicestershire.