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The path to national news is through local earned media

illustration of local earned media

Without a doubt, I believe my interviews on local TV have helped land national press… The local scene is a must if you want national press.

For many brands, success is defined by earned media placements in a national news outlet. But the reality is very few brands, stories or people can or should start their PR efforts in the national news spotlight.

Jumping right into national media before your brand is ready can do more harm than good, notes Kristi Piehl, founder and CEO at Media Minefield, a Minneapolis-based agency that specializes in generating earned media opportunities.

Here’s an example: Your brick and mortar retail operation has a sensational new product it wants to promote. But your online presence isn’t quite up to speed and your supply chain can’t handle a large influx of orders, so local news coverage is a better option than a national news interview. Getting too much national press too soon and not having the ability to meet customer requests can negatively impact your brand. “I’ve seen businesses close because they couldn’t handle the demand that came in the wake of national news coverage,” says Piehl.

Tony Drake on the set of The Street

Tony Drake, CFP and founder of Drake & Associates, on The Street.

On the flip side, beginning the brand’s earned media efforts in your local TV market can substantially increase the credibility of your business in your community — and eventually to the national press. “Local interviews get our name out there and in front of people who seriously want to work with us,” acknowledges Tony Drake, CFP and founder of Drake & Associates in Milwaukee. How successful was this approach? In 2019, Drake and his team had 96 interviews in local news and 33 in national media, including Yahoo Finance and PBS NewsHour.

It’s also critical to consider the level of experience the company spokesperson — often the CEO — has had being interviewed in front of a camera. Speaking in front of large groups from a well-rehearsed, prepared speech is a much different practice than answering a journalist’s questions on live television. Local news interviews are an excellent way for the spokesperson to get comfortable being interviewed and for the brand to hone its message. Mastering this process ensures any national news opportunity is maximized.

Also, national news outlets look for specific elements for their publication or broadcast. It’s important the content is interesting, relevant and that it appeals to the outlet’s target audience. National journalists want to work with someone who is comfortable on camera, which can be shown by sharing a local TV interview.

TackleBar's Tj Lally on FOX 2 Detroit talking about TackleBar

TackleBar’s Tj Lally on FOX 2 Detroit talking about TackleBar as a bridge between flag and tackle for the kids in Michigan and throughout the country.

“Local interviews have helped us refine our message and ensure we get across the points we feel are most important,” said Brigid Ling, VP of marketing for TackleBar Football, a youth football program designed to offer a safer alternative to tackle football. “We are also more prepared for things we may not have thought of prior to being in the interview setting.” The TackleBar team had 176 local interviews and six national interviews in 2019, including one in Sports Illustrated.

Interest in news stories can help create a strong online social media following. By starting with local news outlets, building a social media presence and publishing owned media, your story may be even more attractive to a national news outlet.

“Without a doubt, I believe my interviews on local TV have helped land national press. I’ve built an online presence, boosted my credibility and gained experience working with journalists. The local scene is a must if you want national press,” Drake added.

If you think your brand belongs on the front page of USA Today and your PR agency thinks it’ll be lucky to secure an interview for a local podcast, you’ll be frustrated and your agency won’t be successful. “To ensure success for both our team at Media Minefield and our clients, we establish deliverables and expectations at the start of our relationship,” says Piehl. “It’s important to talk early and often about realistic goals and push for your PR agency to guarantee their deliverables. This will put you both on the same page to finding earned media success.”


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