National Media for Local Recognition

Rice University makes the expertise of its top-flight faculty readily available to an array of national media outlets as a way of keeping the private university in Houston on the map.Nothing reinforces a reputation more than being quoted or written about in a national news outlet.

The biblical quote, "A prophet hath no honor in his own country," applies as much today as when it was written. Sometimes you are nobody until The New York Times says you are somebody.

This is where effective national media relations comes into play. In addition to seeking news story placement in your local media, you package stories that can earn coverage in national publications or a syndicated talk show.

"It isn't easy, but it's doable," says CFM Account Executive Suzie Giacomelli. "You need to be creative in thinking about stories that sell beyond your own community."

Oregon's wine industry has been practicing national media relations for several years through vehicles such as Pinot Boot Camp. Wine writers are invited to spend a few days sampling the latest vintages and talking with winemakers, which results in an unfolding series of stories that highlight what's new and tasty in Oregon Pinot Noir.

One of the best ways to attract the attention of a far-off reporter is to pitch a story about something familiar with a new twist. A product innovation or improvement with a clear consumer benefit — a power toothbrush with its own toothpaste dispenser — can perk up interest among the vast and growing array of reporters and show producers looking for nuggets of news like this.

Another tried-and-true tactic is to tout a program's unique character or stunning outcomes. There are highly successful programs that fly under the radar screen in their hometowns, but can be the star of a major feature in a national publication.

Showcasing your expertise can get you recognized. Rice University has cultivated relationships with a far-flung network of journalists who know the university's faculty can scramble on a dime to comment on breaking news. The Houston-based private university underscored its commitment to national media relations by launching its own interview studio, complete with Rice University backdrop, for quickly assembled media contacts.

National media relations isn't a panacea, but it is a smart, cost-effective way to add energy to your integrated marketing.

To succeed requires more than sending out press releases. "You need a compelling story hook and a good pitch," says Giacomelli. "You also need to surround your pitch with a well-stocked online newsroom, easy-to-access contacts and visual content, including video."

Getting national media coverage is only part of the answer. "You must leverage it by promoting the coverage on your website, through social media channels and in local story pitches," Giacomelli explains.

Convincing The New York Times you have a great story puts you well on the way to opening the eyes of your local customers, stakeholders and donors to your value.