Leveraging News Media to Tell Your Region’s Economic Story
Last fall I presented at MEDA’s Fall Toolbox event in Lansing on how economic development organizations can leverage news media to help tell that region’s economic story. Since that date I have engaged with a few communications professionals across the state on this topic; I’ve heard the good and the bad.
The one common understanding I’ve heard from attendees is that a powerful earned media story that paints your region in a solid light can play a powerful role in your storytelling. Site selectors, real estate professionals and c-suite are searching about your city, so it helps immensely if there are positive news stories filling the Google search.
A big part of my presentation was explaining “8 must-knows” about working with news media. I will share them here in hopes that your team can benefit and begin accumulating strong news media stories for your region. Some of these may seem intuitive, but collectively, they form a solid framework for you to work with when it comes to interacting with reporters.
1. Relationships are important
How you treat and respond to reporters affects how you, your brand, or your company is perceived as a valuable source and how it may be perceived in a story. This is not a transactional relationship.
2. Every reporter is a key reporter
They change “beats” often, so you never know when you will encounter them again. Be kind. Be helpful. They’ll remember that.
3. Respect deadlines
Nothing ruins your chances of obtaining positive coverage more than ignoring deadlines or not being responsive enough.
4. Demonstrate newsworthiness
Just because you think the story is interesting doesn’t mean the reporter will go crazy for it. Try to find the “news” in story and lead with that. Reporters report facts and file objective stories;
It’s not advertising.
5. Know Your Audiences
Know the media outlet & its audience. Do research before pitching story: know the beat to pitch to. Do not pitch exact same story angle to every media; cater each pitch to the audience.
6. Think Long Term
Media relations is a marathon, not a sprint. PR efforts now will pay off over time. Become a resource for a reporter; they will pay you back. Offer other sources for reporter to demonstrate helpfulness.
7. Follow Up Intelligently
Follow up, but just don’t become a pest. Be understanding if your pitch does not work
8. Be Ethical
You will be found out if you cheat your way into a story. Don’t ruin your reputation and relationship for short-term gain.
Cultivating and maintaining relationships with news media will pay off greatly over time. And, due to your investment in the relationship, you are educating your news media partners on what you do and how it helps the economy. As a result, their storytelling becomes more powerful and helpful to you and your efforts to recruit and retain companies in your region.
Birgit Klohs Fellowship
First things first, wow. I still don’t believe that I was selected to receive this enormous honor. Not only is it an honor coming from Birgit, but the opportunity it presented was fantastic and fortuitous in a way that came to realization a few months later. The fellowship provided by this award allowed me to receive $2,000 worth of economic development training. As someone that is still new to this profession, the training dollars helped me not only further my knowledge base, but also connect with others doing this work across the state and the entire country.
Believe it or not, $2,000 worth of training covers a lot! I was able to attend the annual MEDA conference, the Basic Economic Development Course through MEDA, and 2 additional webinars through the International Economic Development Council. The Basic Economic Development course, and the IEDC courses both qualify for credit towards the CEcD, Certified Economic Developer designation. This fellowship allowed me to purposefully start working towards this designation.
I didn’t know it then, but the timing of those trainings was certainly fortuitous. A short four months after I received this fellowship, and an even shorter amount of time after using the training dollars, I found myself with an unexpected promotion to Acting Economic Development Director. Those trainings, in addition to the mentorship from my predecessor, allowed me to build foundational knowledge and gain confidence that are certainly paying off now. This great honor helped me grow, and I look forward to seeing others receive this wonderful opportunity going forward.
Authored by Samantha Fountain, Acting Economic Development Director, City of Flint.