Appeal to Reporters – What’s Your Story?

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Why is it that the TV cameras show up on the most gruesome wrecks, but when you try to get them to cover your EMS Week open house, they’re as scarce as backboards on an MCI?

Contrary to popular opinion, the media is not driven only by bad news. In reality, reporters simply are looking for interesting stories that inform the public about something important; entertain, amuse or tickle the public’s fancy; or, conversely, cause the public to feel a strong emotion.

When planning your EMS Week activities, if you want media attention, you have to learn to think like a reporter. Ask yourself, “Is this a story that is informative, entertaining, amusing or emotive?” For television, ask, “Is your story highly visual? Will cameras be able to capture informative, entertaining or heart-wrenching images and sounds?” If not, you might not get the media attention you desire.

Offer an Exclusive

Reporters2Public information personnel also should know that the media is a competitive business, and reporters like exclusive stories. For this reason, mailing or faxing the same press release to multiple media outlets may not result in coverage. Press releases are good ways to request that the media publicize your event in the newspaper or on a Web site, but they may not be the best approach to garner more in-depth event coverage. Instead, develop a media pitch tailored to a specific reporter; then call that reporter and offer the story as an exclusive.

For example, let’s say that your EMS organization has received a donation of $10,000 from a local businessperson whose life was saved by one of your EMS crews, and you are planning to spend that money to place AEDs in the local library and community center. If the donor is amenable, you can offer a reporter a story that is at once informative, inspiring and interesting. You could pitch the story to a reporter who covers local business, health or public safety. You could even offer a different angle to an alternative reporter working for a Spanishlanguage newspaper. For example, does the donor represent a particular religious or ethnic group, or will the AEDs serve a particular population?

Tips for EMS Week Media Coverage

  1. Identify local print, TV and radio reporters and the best way to contact them.
  2. Identify deadlines for each news outlet. Remember that monthly magazines plan their publications months in advance, and community-based weekly newspapers often work weeks ahead.
  3. Plan an event with good visuals. No one wants to cover a meeting.
  4. Alert reporters in advance of the event and follow up several times as the event approaches.
  5. Consider pitching article ideas for pre-event stories as well as day-of-event coverage.
  6. Develop story pitches geared specifically to the news outlet’s audience.
  7. Don’t spread yourself too thin by issuing the same press release to everyone. Reporters often want to be courted individually.
  8. Choose media spokespersons who are articulate and coach them in what to say.
  9. Work on your media relationships year-round so you are not cold-calling before EMS Week.
  10. Recognize that you are competing with other community events and news for time on the air or in the newspaper. You have to make your event appealing, while at the same recognizing that event coverage is often out of your control.