Generating public relations in the top 100 markets in America

April 27, 2011

“All news is local,” an editor at a regional newspaper once schooled me. It’s even truer today as regional news organizations, stripped of resources and manpower, pull in their sails to focus on only that which is proximate.

Still, the top 100 U.S. news markets remain an important target for companies that need to generate national exposure and view publicity in top newspapers and network affiliate TV as important brush strokes that paint a bold, exciting portrait of their product or service.

Cracking those markets can be a challenge for far-off companies without local offices or operations or, in some instances, even customers.

Yet, it’s still possible. Here’s how:

1. Create a cities list. It’s often a powerful and overlooked technique for grabbing the local headlines. It’s easy to do. Just think creatively. For instance, which cities residents suffer from the most headaches? What areas have the most weight to lose? Or what are the youngest and oldest cities in America? We recently invoked the latter of these ideas to promote our client, RealAge, an online health assessment service owned by Hearst Corporation. Using RealAge data, its analysts were able to rank American cities by their residents’ biological ages — not chronological ages. The results triggered more than 200 TV appearances and some 30 newspaper stories in cities that ranked as the youngest, as well as those that ranked as the oldest by RealAge.

2. Don’t forget wire services. Their syndicates are a natural way to penetrate subscribing newspapers. You can enhance pick-up by first working closely with the wire reporter to tell a broader story that affects a number of cities or regions across the country. Another trick: Contact reporters at subscribing publications when a story appears and alert them as the story moves. A small nudge might be enough to interest other reporters in other markets.

3. Consider satellite media tours. They work if your spokesperson is an expert or authority and if the story is couched as a trend or has a consumer tie-in. For instance, with RealAge, we connected its cities list with the company’s spokesperson, Dr. Michael Roizen — a well-known physician from the Cleveland Clinic. Affiliate TV loved the access and availability; the client loved the exposure.

4. Think graphically. Fewer reporters and resources mean local media has very little time or money to invest in high-quality graphics. A well-crafted infographic can often win local coverage when mere words are not enough.
best and worst cities for staying young infographic

5. Find local consumers of your product or service. Sounds simple, but sometimes that’s enough of a local connection to win coverage. The RealAge campaign was supported by a local initiative designed to find real people, local consumers who transformed their lives by taking the RealAge test and following its advice for improving their personal health. The resulting publicity push placed stories in regional newspapers and TV, all because the test taker lived nearby.

Think global, act local. While local media continues to suffer, it’s still a vital channel to publicize products and services — that, by all rights, is too far from home to interest the program directors, reporters, and editors responsible for shaping local news. But with a little creativity, and a lot of effort, it’s still possible to crack America’s top 100 markets by telling regional stories to create a national buzz.

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