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Priming the News Pump: How to Organize a Media Panel for Chamber Members

Kelly McCann

(This is sidebar content from the article Priming the News Pump, in the Fall 2011 issue.)

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Invite reporters from local media outlets representing print, television,
radio and the web. As a courtesy, give advance notice to those
media outlets not selected for the panel. to keep the event fresh each
year, alternate representation from media outlets.

Ask reporters to submit their top two tips and a positive and negative
case study (do and don't) to share with attendees. some examples:

  • Familiarize yourself with the media outlet you are approaching.
  • Do something unique. the story you pitch should be about
    something the reporter's reader/viewer would find either
    interesting or important.
  • Be selective and truthful. Don't pitch every event, and don't
    exaggerate the facts of your announcement.
  • Include numbers and metrics whenever possible, such as
    how much does something cost, when is it going to open, how
    much tax payer money is involved, how many jobs will it affect,
    the number of children involved, etc.
  • Get noticed by using social media.

Select a moderator to ensure you stay on topic. Hear from all panelists,
and don't spend too much time on one question. if an attendee
asks a question that is too specific to his situation or his organization,
reframe it so the answer benefits the entire group.

In addition to a media contact list and audience demographic information
for local media outlets, provide attendees a sample news release
with descriptions of key components such as:

  • Headline: Most exciting or newsworthy announcement in as
    few words as possible
  • Subhead: Brief, one line summary to expand on headline
  • Lead paragraph: the key "take-away" of the story in one or
    two short sentences.
  • Second paragraph: Expand on lead and provide back up
    information.
  • Third paragraph: Quote to give a human voice to the
    release.
  • Remaining paragraphs: Who, What, When, Where and
    How. Anticipate questions and answer them. Back up your
    initial claim.
  • Final paragraph: Brief summary of company or history.
  • Contact information: include your cell phone number,
    because a reporter may need to reach you outside of normal
    business hours.
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