Local media outlets base their news coverage on the priorities of their readers, and library professionals have unique insight into a community’s concerns. By building a relationship with news editors and reporters in your local media, you can join the ongoing conversation about issues that matter to you, your library and your community.
Decide what story you want to tell.
Reporters want to cover “news” – a hot new program or exciting guest speaker – but you can broaden the scope of the news value to cover the bigger story you want to tell: libraries strengthen communities.
- Offer a new angle on an existing issue or story. For example, put a human face on how budget decisions could impact individuals in your community – a great story when budget decisions are being made.
- Show a trend. If you want to pitch a Labor Day story focusing on services that strengthen local economies, you might mention that your library, like 73% of public libraries across the country, assists patrons with job applications and interviewing skills.
- Appeal to a decision maker’s interests. If your representative is on the House Veterans Affairs Committee, a story that highlights your library’s services to veterans illustrates why libraries are worth federal investment.
Decide which reporter you want to cover your story.
Pitching your story to a specific reporter is generally more effective than sending a story idea to a general news desk. Read the news to find out which journalists are covering issues related to your story. If state or federal funding allows you to offer coding programs for youth, tell your story to a reporter who covers education or technology. Most news outlets provide email addresses for reporters under their bylines (names) online.
Decide who can tell your library story best.
The key to a good story is showing how programs, services, and policies impact real people. Sometimes it is a library user – not a library director – that can best tell the story. If Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) funding provided funding for your computer lab, users could describe to a reporter how the free internet and computer helped them find a job or complete their taxes online. Before you make your pitch to a reporter, be sure to have your spokespeople – other library professionals, patrons, Friends and Trustees – lined up and ready to tell their stories in advance.
Pitch your story.
Send your story ideas initially by email and share just enough information to pique the curiosity of the journalist to ask you for more details. Your pitch should be brief (about 300 words) and have a clear and concise subject heading. Include hyperlinks where the reporter can find more information. If your story is tied to a specific event or a policy decision, make sure the timing is clear to the reporter.
Reporters are busy, so if you don’t hear back from them right away, don’t be discouraged. Follow up with a phone call at the beginning of the day (when they aren’t on deadline) and be prepared to give your pitch verbally. Remember that the ongoing relationship you are building as a consistent news source is just as important as an individual story you hope a reporter covers. Be confident in the value of your input as a community leader!
Amplify the message when your story gets published.
- Share the news on social media. Quote tweet your story directly to your representative and senators with a personal message thanking them or urging them to support library funding. Social media addresses for your federal decision makers are on ALA’s Fund Libraries table. Work with your state association for information on state decision makers and current campaigns.
- Ask your friends and library supporters to respond to the story by commenting online or submitting a letter to the editor. Show the news outlet that their readers care about their library.
- Follow up with the reporter and thank them for covering the story. Also, don’t hesitate to let them know if they got something wrong or missed a key part of the story.
Assistant Director, Communications