One time, a coaching client opened up to me in front of her teammates:
“I just got promoted. I’ve worked hard to develop good relationships with the local media, and now I want to do the same with the national media. But I’m scared they’re going to be like, ‘Who is this woman, and why is she bothering me?’”
I know exactly how she feels. I remember when I got to the point where I pretty much maxed out all the local media coverage we could get. So the natural next step was to take our stories national. But guess what my solution was?
Shop around for a PR agency to do it for us.
Nothing wrong with outsourcing if you do it for the right reasons. But my sole reason was FEAR.
I was terrified of those reporters and producers at national outlets, even though I had never interacted with a single one. I remembered when I was a journalist, how my more experienced colleagues bad-mouthed the PR people they heard from. In my overactive imagination, national journalists would be even more mean and ornery. More on this in a minute.
Fortunately, I had a wise boss who wasn’t afraid to push me out of my comfort zone. She encouraged me to take on national pitching as a short-term project. I gulped and decided to trust her trust in me. It went well, and here’s why:
All journalists, whether local or national, are PEOPLE first. They have hopes and dreams, frustrations and inadequacies, career goals and cranky bosses, just like you and me.
Whether pitching local or national, your first priority is putting yourself in your contact’s cubicle and determining:
- What type of information would this person’s audience appreciate?
- How can I help this person win and progress in his/her career?
Now, the difference between national and local becomes obvious in the answers to those questions. Generally speaking, national reporters or producers need stories that impact people in Iowa and Idaho just the same as they impact people in the locale where the stories originate. And because they have so many more options to choose from, their standard of newsworthiness is justifiably high.
But those answers are not hiding in some mystical cloud, only accessible to a few veteran PR pros. They are in plain sight, in each journalist’s track record of content. It takes skill to determine what will work at the national level and what won’t; but any skill is learnable.
The real secret to taking local stories national is overcoming what held me back at the beginning — the raw fear of the unknown. The first and most crucial step is changing your mindset about the real value you have to offer. Like Kristina did in this post.
After you get clear on that, your path to top-tier placements crystallizes in front of you. Then it’s up to you to put in the work to acquire the skills and do the research to make it happen.
Michael Smart teaches PR professionals how to dramatically increase their positive media placements. He’s engaged regularly by organizations like General Motors, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Georgia Tech to help their media relations teams reach new levels of success. Get more media pitching knowledge from Michael Smart here.