Lunch your way into the newspaper
Q&A with Steve Cain
Good news media relations requires a constant effort. Educators often
share their experiences of having a difficult time getting specific information
into their local news media — perhaps the many who don’t complain
are doing something right. This issue’s question is a follow up
to the question I addressed in “Why
you should never ‘use’ the media” from the March
Question: How do I develop a better partnership with
the local newspaper to get Purdue Extension items of interest into print?
Answer: My answer begins with a question: When was the
last time you went to lunch with the editor (or another appropriate person)
at your newspaper?
I’ve gone to lunch with a few local newspaper editors and Purdue
Extension educators and was encouraged by the dialogue — which had
not taken place before. Usually, local editors know what Purdue Extension
does, so spend a little time making sure editors know about all the programming
You can start with a one-page handout of who does what at your office,
but quickly tell editors where and how your staff have improved the quality
of life, made an economic impact, or improved the community through education.
Don’t talk about how many people attend meetings. Instead, focus
on the audiences both the newspaper and Purdue Extension serve. Explain
what motivates those audiences to seek Purdue Extension education, and
what they have been able to do with what they’ve learned.
Make life easier for editors
After that, ask editors what you can do to make it easier for them to
get that information into print. Find out:
Make new friends
- What newspapers are (and are not) willing to print. Get a clear
view of this. Remember: it isn’t the news media’s
job to educate, it’s to sell newspapers. Education is a
detailed process that the news media are, quite frankly, not set
up to handle. However, the news media are very capable of making
people aware of issues and where to get more information. You
may have a little room to negotiate here, but remember, it is
their newspaper and editors have to run their businesses profitably.
They are responsible for what works and doesn’t work for
them. For example, if they can’t print a list of all your
events, maybe they can provide a short notice periodically that
suggests where readers can find out more about Purdue Extension
events in your county.
- What deadlines work best for your newspaper. Ask them when
they want materials handed in, and make certain you get your submissions
to them on time.
- What style of copy, word count, and format for copy work best
for the paper. If you can submit materials in a format that’s
easy for them to use, they will be more likely to use it.
- What it takes, within reason, to get your information into
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a lunch meeting may be worth
a thousand news releases — or at least, the beginning of getting
them read. If your editor is not enthusiastic about going to lunch, see
if you can meet at his or her office.
Newspaper editors and reporters are interested in providing their audience
with information, and you can help. If you can provide insight into a
new or different audience or topic, that conversation might be useful
enough to garner more attention for your information.
I know some of you have tried working more closely with the local news
media to no avail. Continue your efforts and look for new opportunities.
For example, when new, young reporters start at a newspaper, they are
often looking for sources. If you can provide new reporters a list of
local sources on current hot topics, you may grab their attention and
make some friends. The sources you provide can be volunteers or key people
who can address local topics. Of course, never give reporters a person’s
contact information unless he or she gives you permission to do so.
Look for other outlets
Finally, don’t forget the editors of local newsletters.
A survey we conducted in Hendricks County showed that people often read
local faith-based bulletins. If you have information that is helpful to
that audience about health, youth development, or even gardening, find
out who puts the newsletter together, and see how you can provide information
that can go with the newsletter.
Reaching out through company newsletters may also provide an avenue to
new audiences. But just like working with newspaper editors, find out
what you need to do to make the information more usable.
Steve Cain, firstname.lastname@example.org
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