How did you get that national news coverage?

IMG_5817Here’s how I landed a story that ran on 107 different T.V. stations across the U.S. and made CBS This Morning: a media relations case study.

One might think that in today’s hyper-connected world, getting media attention is easier than ever before. It’s actually quite the opposite. The news cycle is bustling with world affairs, politics, crime and a seemingly never-ending onslaught of drastic weather events in the U.S. Moreover, PR people far outnumber journalists today, more so than at any time in the past. And, let’s be honest, many of these PR people are not adept at with the news media. 

Today, successful media relations is all about cutting through the clutter and noise with solid story ideas, pitched to the right people. It takes a lot of research, work and preparation, but the payoff can be huge.

So, about this national coverage… it happened by working with CBS News reporter Chris Martinez, who recently came to LA from CBS in Chicago to serve as a west coast correspondent for Newspath, the affiliate service for CBS. His stories run on stations across the U.S. and often make network newscasts during a slow news cycle.

Here’s how I prepared, which is a good approach for anyone undertaking a national product or service launch.

STEP 1: Make sure you have a GOOD pitch that is truly national in scope. He welcomes story ideas in California but they’ve got to be awesome – DO NOT send a three page press release. Chris wants consumer focused and healthcare based pitches with NATIONAL relevance on TIMELY topics that draw in viewers. Have a news hook beyond your local market.

STEP 2: Have sources beyond company spokespeople lined up.
In our case the story is about a new app where you can earn a bachelor’s degree entirely on your iPad (no textbooks required). Pretty cool, huh? Well it isn’t a story just yet. In addition to the university Chancellor and faculty, I worked to identify a few students from the beta testing group. You’ve got to put a real face (or faces) behind your pitch and have them lined up, and more importantly, know what they are going to say. I vetted all sources and did practice interviews on camera with all of them prior to even pitching.

STEP 3: Set up a multi-media newsroom (see as my example)
Create a page online that includes everything a reporter might want/need in one location, including video and image assets available. If your organization is undertaking a national effort such as a new product launch, it’s worth investing in these assets. In our case I hired a union photojournalist to shoot sample news packages that I edited and narrated; I was a journalist before entering PR – this is not easy for everyone – there are people you can hire to edit and produce for you as well, which I recommend rather than a novice looking attempt. Contact me for a reference if you need to hire a freelancer.

Just like a reporter would, I tracked down all elements of the story, including research beyond our organization. I turned the on-camera practice interviews into sample news packages and put them all up online via the newsroom. We also shot a ton of b-roll, which was utilized in the story. This is often called “hand-out video”.

STEP 4: Craft a one paragraph pitch that is HIGH LEVEL and CLEAR. Don’t try to cram everything in. Get right to the point. NO MORE THAN A PARAGRAPH. You’ve got about 10-15 seconds to grab attention. Here’s the actual email I sent to pitch (we had interacted on Twitter prior to my email – it helps to follow reporters for a while to observe what kind of stories they cover).

Subject: Consumer story in OC: nonprofit univ. launches app based

Hi Chris, congrats on your move to L.A. for
Newspath. I manage the news bureau at Brandman University, a nonprofit in OC and thought you might be interested in a story down here: Need to finish a college degree? 37 million Americans have dropped out of college before finishing. Now there’s an app for that. You can earn a bachelor’s degree entirely on your iPad – no textbooks to buy. Moreover, it’s half the cost and can be completed in half the time. The app called MyPath just launched to the public after 2 years in development. Approved by U.S. Dept. of Education nation-wide. You’ll find all the details, and video interviews with students who say it is a life changing innovation, at our online newsroom at Need to chat? My cell is 949-793-xxxx. -Joe

Chris responded and he was wonderful to work with. I did all of the leg work – he and crew only had to come to one location where all the sources were scheduled, and I had different environments identified ahead of time for interviews.

Once the story aired in Los Angeles it was made available to all affiliates via Newspath; using our media database software (I use Vocus-Cision), I sent an email to the assignment desk at all CBS affiliates in the country, suggesting the story and sharing the link to the multimedia site and my cell number for any additional information.

The story was seen by over 11 million people across the U.S. and sparked lots of other coverage, including a story in USA Today. You can find Chris on Twitter. Don’t name drop me, please. It won’t help you.

Want to see the story? Here it is: