Most of you, if not all of you, have an interesting story to tell about NBIA. But how do you pitch a story to the media and get results?
Kristine Tanzillo, a public relations specialist in San Antonio, Kristina De Leon, a reporter with WOAI-TV in San Antonio, and Mary Ann Roser, an NBIA board member and journalist, discussed ideas for stories, and how to share them, at the Seventh International NBIA Disorders Association Family Conference in the AlamoCity in April.
Tanzillo, whose late sister had NBIA, provided a handout of helpful tips.
Here are some to get you started:
- Before contacting your local newspaper or TV station, become familiar with the kinds of stories they do and notice whether a particular reporter is commonly the person covering those stories. Many newspapers also have columnists who write about interesting people and events in the community.
- Whether you want to tell your story to the newspaper or your local TV station, call the media outlet’s newsroom and ask for the email and phone number of the reporter who covers medical-related or human interest stories. Also ask for the contact information for that person’s editor so you can cc him or her on the email. If no one covers those items specifically, see if there is a columnist at the newspaper or address your message to the city/metro editor (newspaper) or news director (TV).
- The media outlet will want a “news hook” for your story, such as a scientific discovery (your child’s gene was just found!) or perhaps an event (family fundraiser involving many members of the community) to hook your family’s story around.
- Think of your story visually. What elements would make compelling photos or video? Remember, children and animals make great visuals.
- Send the reporter and his or her editor a brief email describing your story, including the visual elements. The email should be a few short paragraphs followed by your name and phone number. Make it clear and easy to understand; do not use medical jargon.
- It’s OK to follow up with a phone call to the reporter about a week later, but be careful when you call. Busy times for TV story deadlines are after 3 p.m. and after 4 p.m. for newspaper reporters. Sometimes, reporters save up stories for the holidays when news is slow. Consider whether your story has a holiday hook, and if so, mention it.
- If the reporter is interested and you are seeking coverage of an event, send an even shorter email with the time, date and brief summary of the event. Always include your cell phone number.
- If the reporter and/or editor are not interested in a story, ask if a photo is possible, especially if you are pitching a specific event. It can sometimes be easier to get a photographer or videographer to your event, particularly on the weekends, when staffing is limited.
- Keep in mind that if you pitch your story to more than one media outlet, the others might not be interested. But if one station or newspaper can’t do your story, try another.
- Realize that your story can go in different directions than what you had planned and can be cut for brevity. It also might be held until space is available to run it.
- Don’t ask to see the story in advance. Most media outlets do not allow that.
- Understand that if no one is available to tell your story it’s not because the story isn’t worthwhile. A lot of good stories go untold because news staffs are much smaller than they once were.
Clip this and keep it handy. You’re ready for your close-up.