Working With the Media
Sodexo Foundation Summer Meals Outreach Toolkit
Getting an article or an op-ed in a newspaper or having a television station cover your event is one of the most effective ways to bring attention to summer meals programs because of their potential audience reach (and it's free!) But for some people, working with the media can be intimidating. Keep in mind that they are people just like you: intelligent, committed and busy. Here are a few tips to help you approach the media:
A targeted media list can make all the difference. Create a list based on your knowledge of the area and do a little research to find out who's reporting on childhood hunger and how he or she is covering it. This template media list can help you build a targeted list.
Invite the media to attend with an advisory. If hosting an event, email a media advisory one week beforehand. An advisory is like an invitation.
Call, email, call, email. Email all reporters before and after the event to encourage them to cover your story, and then follow up with a quick phone call. Because of Caller ID, if you reach a reporter's voicemail, leave a message. Again, have your message pitch prepared and practiced in advance. See the pitch timeline and timing for more details below.
No event, no problem. If you are sending out a press release announcing only that summer meals are starting, email your press release with a short engaging introduction, then make your follow up calls. See the pitch timeline below for more details. You can also consider providing local and community newspapers with a matte release story they can run. Use this template matte release to get started and add in a photo and details about your local programs. Pitch the matte release the same way you would a press release.
Keep your follow-up calls short and engaging. Write down your pitch in advance and practice it. Be sure to:
- Explain why you are approaching this journalist or blogger. Show that you know what they have covered and why this story works for them.
- Put a personal face on the story. Have compelling family stories or vetted spokespeople ready.
- Stress the local angle when pitching local outlets.
- Include visuals in pitches to television and photo journalists. TV news assignment desks sometimes respond positively when a pitch includes how a story can be "teased" by briefly introducing a story before switching to a commercial.
Be conscious of deadlines. See the template media list for ideal pitching times for various outlets.
Don't take it personally if they aren't able to cover the story. If a reporter is not interested, always ask for his or her thoughts on who at the outlet might want to cover the story.
Never send attachments. Always copy and paste news advisories and press releases into the body of an email (or use a press release service such as Cision Point or PR Newswire). Reporters do not like receiving attachments and your email may get caught in their spam filter.
For larger events, send your press release on a news wire service such as PR Newswire. This service sends your press release to the same outlets as Associated Press stories and increases chances of your press release being picked up by media outlets. To learn more about opening an account, go to www.prnewswire.com.
Media Pitching Timeline
Timing is everything when it comes to getting the media to cover your efforts. Following is a general timeline for when you should begin reaching out to encourage.
- Four to Five days before event: Email a media advisory to everyone on your media list with specific information about the event. Make follow-up calls to pitch the event and gauge media interest. Finalize the news release and prepare press packets to distribute at the event and send via e-mail.
- Two days before the event: If you have been unable to make contact with a beat reporter on your list, try calling the assignment desk to make sure someone at the outlet is aware of the event.
- Day before the event: Make a last round of calls to key outlets to confirm participation or attendance and to answer any questions regarding logistics.
- Morning of event: Call TV news assignment desks to attend your event - they make assignments the same morning. Send the press release directly before or after the event begins.
- Following the event: Assess media coverage of the event. Follow up with reporters who were unable to attend the event. Send an electronic press kit, photos and videos.