Media professionals often get stuck chasing the same high-circulation targets just to get lost in an editor’s inbox alongside hundreds of other pitches. The media relations industry is so hyper-focused on the CNN headlines, The New York Times mentions, and The Wall Street Journal op-eds that messaging can lose the quality and intent of our storytelling.
Campaign communications cannot always hinge their success on landing in a big-name outlet; they must be judged on how they best reach the intended audience in the most intentional and human ways. And oftentimes, reaching everyday people does not mean the front page of The Washington Post; instead, it means local news and local radio, and it means empowering local voices.
Review Intended Audiences
When preparing a media engagement strategy, usually target outlets are one of the first discussions to be had. But before listing a dream headline, I challenge communication professionals to extensively review your intended audience, from top to bottom.
First, define the largest group of individuals you hope to reach. This can be as large as “Americans concerned about the state of crime” or “young progressive registered voters.”
From this umbrella audience, start to drop off smaller subgroups. For example, from “Americans concerned about the state of crime,” a subgroup may be “Chicagoans concerned about police brutality.”
This way of thinking opens the door for you to define target media markets, markets that you may have neglected in favor of a broader audience.
Local News and Engagement
In addition to reaching a more conscious audience, state/local media outlets have incredibly high engagement rates because they are so deliberate in their coverage. If I am from Miami, I know that the headlines in The Miami Herald could very well directly impact my daily life, whereas the same cannot always be said about Politico or The Atlantic.
People who consume the news on a daily basis care about news most when it is intended for them. By investing in regional journalism, your media strategy instantly becomes tailored to a highly specific and highly engaged audience.
Building Local News Relationships
Whether you have a portfolio of clients, or you are on an internal press team, I encourage you to expand your outreach with smaller media outlets.
If our goal as communicators is to deliver the right messaging to the right people, our most direct line of engagement is always local news. Even as we network, it is imperative to build relationships with local reporters, because while their work is just as important and challenging as a national outlet, it is not nearly as often recognized as such.
There is no denying that national headlines carry significant weight, but they are not always the most authentic or practical way to make an impact.
Nick Fulton is a political communications strategist based in Washington, D.C.. Nick currently works in racial justice organizing, but has a background in implementing powerful media strategies for gender justice organizations, Fortune 500 companies, progressive advocacy organizations, and more.