Contacting the Media
adapted from PHNP content
Activists are encouraged to contact their local media to inform them of developments in pro-life issues and encourage them to cover it in a story.
Which Media to Contact Think about where you get your news from: the newspapers and journals you read, the radio news or talk stations you listen to, and the broadcast news or public television programs you watch. Make a list of media sources you think would be interested in the topic.
How to Get Media Contact Information It can sometimes be difficult to find contact information for your local media. Most of the time, a Google search will find you the best way to contact the outlet in question. For newspapers, Google the name of the publication. For television and radio stations, it is usually easier if you have the call letters of the station (WFLD, for instance), but you can also search the name of the broadcast station, channel or city. (ABC 7 Chicago, for example.) Once you have found the website for the station or publication, there will usually be a link to contact information somewhere on the page. Usually these links are at the very top or bottom of the page, or in a menu bar. The links commonly say “Contact Us” or “About.”
Making a Press Call “Pitch calls” can be intimidating but are actually quite easy. The trick is to be able to quickly convey the important points of the story in a few opening sentences. Lead with the most important facts, follow up with the least important.
How to Find the Right Person to Talk To Even if you’ve gotten contact information for your local paper or NPR station, you may not know the right person to talk to. Some websites will have directory of staff people with personal numbers or extensions. All media outlets are different, but here are some general rules to help you identify the appropriate person to contact: * Newspapers: Some newspapers staff a health reporter, but many don’t. Even in those that don’t have a formal health person, usually there is someone in the office who is assigned to take health stories. Look for the Assignment Editor or the News Desk Editor; they should be able to tell you who it is. * Television or Radio Broadcast: Larger news stations will have individual reporters, but medium and smaller ones may not. Look for the News Director. * Television or Radio Programs: TV and Radio programs have producers who make decisions about what to cover and who to book (for local programs many times the host is the producer). Look for this person. If you don’t have a staff directory or can’t find the appropriate person:
- Call the main number on the website.
- Ask the person who answers the phone for the newsroom (for newspapers and broadcast news / television) or the producer of the program in question.
- Once you get the newsroom, ask for the person who covers health stories. They should be able to direct you to someone.
Making the Pitch Once you know you’re talking to the right person, its time to make your pitch. Tell them right of the bat that you’ve got a story for them. Also be sure to let them know that you are a physician in the community. Use your script and press release to guide you. Always offer to send the press release for more information.
Following-Up If you’re lucky, your reporter may write a story. Lots of mid-size and local news outlets get their national news from the Associated Press, but a call from a local physician can sometimes make the difference in getting a story noticed when it comes off the wire. If you did get a story, it’s not a bad idea to follow-up with the reporter. If she did a good job covering it, thank her. If there’s something she missed or misinterpreted, gently let her know about it. Most of all, take the opportunity to invite further contact. Let the reporter know you are a physician in the community and are available to talk about the health system and health policy. You may even find yourself called for comment on other stories.