Cultivate the Press

Community reporters who cover your library are a key group of stakeholders. They may work for newspapers, radio or television stations, independent news magazines, or even blogs. As influencers of public opinion, reporters have a strong voice in your community, so it's important to get to know them. Here's how!

Initiate relationships. Introduce yourself to all the reporters who cover your library as part of their "beat," or the organizations and topics they're assigned. Once you've introduced yourself, stay in regular contact.

Cultivate positive relationships before you need them. As with your elected officials, it's a good idea to develop positive relationships before you have to contact reporters—or you get contacted by them—when something goes awry.

Earn their trust. The key to successful relationships with reporters is earning their trust. Reporters are very busy, often overwhelmed with press releases and story ideas from community organizations. Assure them the stories you're pitching are newsworthy.

Quality over quantity. Be judicious about the number of press releases you send out. Don't send them out for every regular program you have. Instead, wait for the gems.

Paint a picture. When you do send out a press release, include details and information that paint a picture for reporters. If you're trying to get a visual (e.g. a photo opportunity or TV news spot), be specific about how your event will contribute to the visual you're requesting. Example: "We'll have children juggling, walking the tightrope, and learning to apply clown makeup at our circus camp."

Target when useful. While you typically send press releases to a variety of broadcast media, sometimes you can put extra effort into reaching targeted outlets. Example: If you have a story that highlights music or sound, let local radio stations know about that opporunity.

Follow up. When you send out a press release, follow up with a phone call. Due to the high volume of press releases reporters receive, t's quite possible a reporter never saw yours. Your phone call can make the difference in whether or not your story gets covered!

Offer "extras." Pitching human interest story ideas to reporters helps you and helps them. How? Human interest stories draw attention to the library (which helps you) and can be used whenever reporters need an idea (which helps them). Make a list of ideas to get started (e.g. "Book checked out 100 years ago gets returned") and keep collecting them. Set up a regular schedule (monthly is ideal) for contacting your reporter colleagues with ideas.

Be available. You rely on the local press for help, so why not return the favor by offering them your own talents? Example: One librarian developed a strong relationship with a local talk show host and offered to come in on a moment's notice whenever another guest cancelled. The librarian prepared ready-to-go talking points on various topics for whenever the calls came. The result? Much more positive publicity for the library!