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zz_line.gif (2079 bytes)MEDIA RELATIONS

Definition and Analysis of Media

To develop an up-to-date media directory for your region, there are many sources available. Check the local Yellow Pages for general information on local newspapers and broadcasters. At your local library, you can ask for a media directory such as that published by Editor and Publisher magazine. Another publication, California Metro Media, covers all print and broadcast organizations in the state and includes specific contacts for subject categories. Once you have the names and contact information, call the newspapers, television and radio stations to make sure the information is current, especially the name of the producer or reporter/editor you have as a contact. Media people tend to move around frequently.

Newspaper

There were 98 daily newspapers and 593 weeklies in California in mid-1998. Dailies typically have larger circulations and more specialized staff reporters. For instance, reporters who cover only environmental issues might be found at the larger daily papers. Weeklies and smaller daily papers have smaller staffs. Reporters there tend to be generalists who cover a wide variety of issues. They may have little experience in environmental coverage. These smaller papers rely heavily on news releases and might print them verbatim from credible sources. Larger newspapers will view releases as ideas for stories but will investigate and write original copy before a story is run.

Deadlines

H2O Home to Ocean logoDeadlines depend on many factors, most importantly publishing cycle. Morning papers have deadlines starting late in the afternoon the day before publication. Only breaking news (usually sporting events) can be completed in the late evening and still make the morning run. Afternoon newspapers typically have early morning deadlines. Deadlines for weeklies depend on day of publication and printing press schedules.

Specialty sections within any paper (such as the gardening section) have various deadlines. However, the deadline is generally at least two days before publication. Call to check.

Coverage

Daily newspapers cover international, national, regional and local news, so you can tailor your press materials to interest the state, regional or local angle. Weekly newspapers are usually interested in regional or, more specifically, local news, so news releases should be very specific to local interest.

Placement 

Decision-making varies depending on newspaper size. The larger dailies have subject-matter editors. Most key editors meet daily to share story ideas for feature pages.

To place a story in a newspaper, you should be familiar with the staff structure and how it applies to your story angle. If a story needs to reach gardeners and there is a gardening or outdoor editor at a paper, that is your best start. First send a letter or release that outlines the story ideas and specific facts. Then follow up by phone. However, DO NOT call just to ask if they received the letter or release. Follow up with a specific offer of an interview or other information not contained in the written communications. Explain the importance of the issue to their readership. This is part of grooming relationships with publications that will be of value in the future.

Category opportunities 

Major dailies typically offer the following sections and opportunities. Some examples of appropriate story angles:

Garden section

You can approach the editor about an education campaign, especially if there is an event scheduled with a retailer. Make sure you let them know that this is a statewide "situation" with local programs that will impact the quality of life for everyone.

Lifestyle section

You can approach this editor about information that shows our changing lifestyle and our more environment-friendly habits. As part of this broader story, you can translate important information about the purchase, use and proper disposal of home pesticides.

Business section

If you have a retailer involved in a partnership program, you can invite the business editor to explore how businesses are doing more and more "community relations" activities with your program as a prime example.

Metro section

This is typically reserved for breaking news that affects the local region and is appropriate for news conferences or other important and timely stories that don’t have the "shelf life" of the previous feature ideas.

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Magazines

Many regional and special interest magazines are circulated to California audiences. Keep in mind, magazines don’t have to be published in California to be of interest to California residents. Regional magazines include such titles as Diablo Magazine (Contra Costa County), The East Bay Monthly and
Los Angeles Magazine
. Local magazines and newsletters from community gardening clubs and nurseries offer excellent opportunities to place pesticide feature stories.

Special interest magazines that may cover specific educational efforts that protect California’s environment include California Flyfisher, California Game & Fish, California Landscaping, California Wild and national publications such as Gardening Life, Outdoors and Home, Lawn and Leisure.

Deadlines

Magazines have long lead times for deadlines, usually needing materials at least a month, if not several months, before publication date. They are not for breaking news items, but can do great feature work in the environmental arena.

Placement

Due to their long lead time before publication, magazines are more feature-oriented and tend not to cover press conferences and events. However, you can call the editor of the most appropriate section (lifestyles, business and outdoor are typical general magazine sections) to discuss an in-depth story.
To have a positive outcome, position both the problem and the potential solutions of which you are a part. Again, start with a letter and follow-up by phone with a specific plan to give the editor a complete story. Maybe it’s a tour of your facility and an example of your inspection process and what it means to public health and safety.

Category opportunities 

Within the print publication industry, focus your efforts on special-interest magazines to reach the specific audience you want to reach. For instance:

Gardening

Knowing that readers of gardening magazines are more knowledgeable than others about the use of home pesticides, your story angles and materials can be more advanced and to the point.

Outdoor

Magazines that reach people who love the outdoors, especially water sports, will be interested to know that they might have an inadvertent hand in water pollution problems.

Regional publications

These magazine editors are always looking for topics within the region that make them stand out. You might want to tailor the materials to show how the community has progressed toward halting pollution in its lakes and streams.

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Radio 

There were 243 commercial AM stations and 346 commercial FM stations in California in mid-1998, many without their own news departments or news editors. News-talk stations are on the AM dial and FM stations tend to be music-oriented. Many of the larger FM stations also have news departments.

Deadlines and placement 

Radio is an immediate medium. Even faster than television, radio will report on stories as they are happening. However, for a normal news cycle with a feature angle to it, you should consider approaching an assignment editor (the person who assigns reporters to cover news stories) or a specific reporter who has covered the subject area, about a week in advance of the interview or "event." The first approach is in writing, and typically faxed as an "advisory." Keep in mind that radio reporters will be more interested in stories that have key interview or sound opportunities.

After an advisory, you can start following up with phone calls and then complete the cycle by sending a media "alert" to them the day before an event or interview opportunity.

gold_fish.GIF (364 bytes)  If you are placing a guest on a radio talk show, you should start "booking" the segment about three weeks in advance although you might not get confirmation until a few days out. Keep in mind that news talk shows are always looking for fresh subjects and those that originate locally offer an excellent opportunity to place a story.

Radio news prides itself on being able to deliver the news first. Send breaking news releases to assignment editors at the larger news stations or to reporters interested in the environment and community activities.

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Television 

In mid-1998, there were 86 commercial television stations, 20 public broadcasting stations, and another 115 cable systems in the state. The number of cable systems illustrates the incredible fragmentation of the media via cable and Internet players. Although fragmentation makes it more difficult to place advertising dollars with efficiency, it sometimes makes it easy to direct public relations efforts to a specific audience. For in-stance, if there are regional TV programs targeted to the California gardener, you can be sure this audience is interested in gardening and has at least a casual knowledge of pesticide use.

Most commercial television stations have a local news department. Many smaller community stations have local programming during the weekends that deal with specific interests and can be a target for a spokesperson or program announcement.

Deadlines and placement 

Television news stations require time to edit video tape to put together a story for a later newscast. That can take anywhere from one to three hours, depending on the complexity of the story. This should be a factor in timing a press event or conference. Try to schedule it for mid-morning or mid-afternoon so reporters have time to prepare tape for noon newscasts or evening news.

In approaching the station, try the assignment editor for stories that will require a remote camera assignment. Again, the first contact is in writing via fax. Then follow up with the editor via phone. The first communications should happen no more than two weeks in advance of the event or interview opportunity. Television operates on a short fuse. Assignment editors attend early morning editorial meetings, so try to reach them after 9 a.m. They typically have an afternoon assignment meeting as well, so be aware of their "busy hours." If you are having trouble getting through to the assignment editor or have not received a positive response, shift your efforts to a likely reporter — one who has covered the subject matter and you know could be interested. Veteran reporters often submit their own
story ideas.

gold_fish.GIF (364 bytes)  The news department wants stories that affect the majority of their viewers and have a visual component. Unlike radio and newspapers, visual opportunities are a dominant factor in determining coverage. For instance, a press conference staged at the edge of a stream with large graphic examples
of point source pollution and demonstrations of the "do’s and don’ts of home pesticide use" will receive greater attention than a press conference staged in a central office with a spokesperson trying to describe the problem and efforts towards a solution.

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