Public Relations for Local Changemakers – How to shape your story for local media

This post is part of a series about How to make use of local PR to get the word out about your community project. If you haven’t read the introduction yet, you might want to go back to the first post here.

You’ve decided that now is the right time to tell your story to local media and gain awareness for your community group or initiative. Now what? You want to ensure that the story you’re telling is engaging to the reader. It’s little use to have your community group appear in your local newspaper if it doesn’t portray the message you want or includes inaccurate information or misperceptions. Therefore, it’s important to prepare your message and story before approaching local media.

Ensure your story has a ‘human’ and local angle

Offering local media a personal testament from someone your community group helps goes a long way in ensuring that the reporter and subsequently, the readers, forget a connection with what you’re doing. This should be the crux of your story.

The best way to engage people in community issues is to make sure that it’s relatable to the reader’s lives and accessible in their community; telling a story from the point of view of a local person it affects will achieve that. This person (or people) will need to feel comfortable speaking directly with media regarding their story and how your community group impacted their lives.

If appropriate, you should approach these people in advance to speaking with media and gauge their comfort level at participating in local media opportunities.

Another angle is to incorporate your personal story of how and why you became involved in the initiative, including the interesting stories of your group’s volunteers.

Both angles will evoke different emotions in the readers so it’s important to think carefully of your desired end goal when crafting your story. In both instances, the local ‘hook’ is crucial as regional media will only write about issues or topics that have a local angle.

Preparing your ‘talking points’

Before approaching media, it can be helpful to write down 3-5 key messages that you want to be present in the article. What do you want people to take away from reading this piece? A couple of things to consider when developing these messages include:

  • Do you have a news item that you want to communicate?
  • What is your local angle?
  • Why should people care?
  • How do you want to make them feel?
  • What timely trend or topic does your community group align with?
  • Do you have any related data that you can include to bolster the story?

Once you know how to tell your story, it’s time to get in touch with the press. Find out more here on how to drafting a press release and when it’s best to use this approach; as well what the alternatives are.

Let us know if there’s anything else you’d like to know on PR in the comments section! We would love to hear any of your recent efforts here as well.

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Kate Lynch is a communications and PR professional and director at Allison+Partners in Dublin.

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