The Road to The New York Times Goes Through the Muncie Star

The Road to The New York Times Goes Through the Muncie Star

During Oprah Winfrey’s longstanding reign as media queen of daytime television, it became only a matter of time before virtually every new consumer-facing client expressed a desire to get their product on her show.

And while Oprah’s show no longer airs, clients’ obsession with placement in the biggest media outlet endures. Some of the familiar favorites include The Wall Street Journal and Washington Post, Today Show, Ellen and Good Morning America.

But sometimes bigger, in terms of advancing the interests of your business or brand, isn’t always better. Telling a local story, or a series of local stories, can often be just as good a way to connect a brand with key constituencies.

Although big-time media exposure can be a wonderful aspiration, it’s often a journey, and the road to The New York Times, as we often advise our clients, goes through the Muncie Star.

Of course, we (usually) don’t literally mean that newspaper serving the medium-sized central Indiana community that was the inspiration for Middletown. What we’re talking about is the thousands of local media that are an integral part of communities’ day-to-day lives. Securing a media “hit” in these smaller markets isn’t some empty consolation prize, either: local news outlets possess strong and loyal followings that outstrip national media, as this essay from The Poynter Institute underscores.

In addition, engaging consumers first through local coverage can also help your organization’s spokespersons polish their media chops before hitting the big time. National television producers will want to see how you come across on camera. Do you have a small-market clip that can serve as a sort of “screen test”?

One of our clients, Mercy Housing Lakefront, tells stories that warrant national coverage from time to time. We stay alert to those opportunities. However, to achieve one of the organization’s foremost objectives–building positive relationships with community groups and local politicians—they don’t have nearly the same impact as a steady drumbeat of local coverage.

Another example: Dr. Tyra Manning, a longtime elementary school superintendent in the Chicago area who wrote a book about her struggle with mental illness. Because she had such a strong base of support in the community where she had worked for nearly 20 years, we made a strong push for local coverage. Those stories, in turn, were an effective starting point to build buzz around her book, Where the Water Meets the Sand.

The initial coverage helped spark more media attention that has been a key driver of building Dr. Manning’s calendar of speaking engagements.

Finally, a long-time WCG client is World Vision and its annual holiday Gift Catalog.  While big national exposure such as an appearance on the Rachael Ray Show has a large impact on donations, scores of local market hits like this one can achieve the same or even greater consumer engagement among donors.

Along the same lines of focusing on smaller, more achievable goals in media relations, we take smaller steps to nurture relationships with reporters—before we need or want their attention.

The rise of reporters’ professional use of social media provides a big, easy opening. We don’t try to become a Facebook friend with reporters we don’t know personally. Rather, we identify ways that we can support reporters’ work, such as commenting on and sharing from their Twitter feed when they post links to their stories.

Doing so builds our reputation as a trustworthy, helpful resource. Over time, when we have a relevant story pitch, we are more likely to find success—thanks to having developed a professional rapport—than if we were to make a pitch out of the blue.

With any coverage, the sobering truth is that most people will have missed it the first time around. Consequently, it’s essential to draw attention to it through a variety of avenues, including websites, social-media platforms, and electronic or hard-cover media kits.

Even when the road takes our clients directly to The New York Times, we know that’s never the end of the journey.

To figure out what strategy is right for you, contact us through our website, or at 708-434-5006.