Animal Welfare Professionals

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  • 1.  Media relationships

    Posted 01-19-2023 08:38 PM
    Does anyone have tips on how best to intice news stations to take on a story you pitch to them? We are a smaller rescue partner org located in between a few large towns, but not in any large town, so we tend to get overlooked by other larger shelters located in the same towns as the news stations who already have long standing relationships with them.

    Whitney Zoghby

  • 2.  RE: Media relationships

    Posted 01-20-2023 07:31 AM
      |   view attached
    Hi Whitney,

    What type of stories are you trying to pitch?  It's tougher in larger markets like Chicago or New York, but given your location, I would say you really shouldn't have a problem pitching stories to Durham or Greensboro.  Our shelter is pretty rural Wisconsin and we are pretty regularly able to get coverage from our major cities about 30-40 minutes away.

    In general:
    • You're always better off contacting a specific reporter than trying to just send in an email to a tip line or news desk.  Try looking at the different news stations' websites, and identifying reporters on different stories, or if nothing is standing out, contact the news anchors for your 6pm or 10pm news, or for your morning shows.
    • In your pitch, identify things that will stand out for the reporter.  You want your story to be timely either something that just happened or will be happening.  Some sort of interesting flair, in small markets cute animals might be enough, in larger markets it might need to be a manufactured event like Animal Planet's Puppy Bowl, or something like a hoarding case seizure, or just an interesting history on an animal. 
    • For TV, specifically identify any visuals that your story has, opportunities to take pictures, or great pictures/video you already have.  For radio, identify specific audio highlights.
    • It's great to email a reporter with your story idea, but definitely call the reporter to follow up and don't assume they have read or even seen your email.  Pitch them again on the phone, you can literally ask them "do you have a minute for me to pitch you a story" and they'll usually say yes or tell you who is the best person to talk to.  If you can't find a reporter's phone number, call the news desk and ask for that person specifically, leave a voice mail if you don't get through.
    • If you're writing for newspapers, local papers have less and less staff today.  In those cases, it can be more helpful to pre-write a press release.  Try to write it similar to an actual news story rather than an information release, as in many cases, small papers will just print what you wrote.

    Attached to this post is a sample media advisory which is a short, very specific highlight sheet you can just send (preferably in the body of an email, not as an attachment) and you can see a successful sample press release here.

    Jeff Okazaki
    Humane Society of Jefferson County


  • 3.  RE: Media relationships

    Posted 01-20-2023 08:08 AM
    Hi Whitney,

    I'm so glad you posted this because it prompts me to get busy getting some media attention too! We're in a very rural area with no traditional news outlets except a local paper. We do run ads in that weekly paper, and let them know whenever we have a story that would interest the community (examples have included rescuing 3 cats from a house fire, rescuing 20 cats and kittens from an abandoned home, and rescuing a stray cat who'd been spotted with his head stuck in a mayo jar). These were no-brainers because they were 'dramatic' but anything inspirational or showcasing human kindness will probably interest news outlets.
    For TV or radio: radio stations have mandated PSA (Public Service Announcement) slots and would probably be glad to have you come on. Usually it's an 1/2 hr show at some ungodly early hour:)
    For TV, make sure you are in their rolodex IF you're willing to drive in to the station and help with any stories involving animal rescue/care. Just send emails to all the reporters who cover that sort of story (check their website).
    It's easier to piggyback on an existing story/situation than create your own. For example, weather stories - a reporter may love to have added visual draw by including 15" of reminding people how pets are affected by storms, for example. They'd just run your shelter's info and if you ask, a link to your website. If you're responsive, and easy to work with, they will start to regard you as their go-to person for animal angles in stories.
    If it's not practical to drive to a town to help in these situations, and you really want one story on your shelter, maybe connect it to a holiday or other event in your community. There probably needs to be more than just your shelter to get them to send a reporter and camera person out.  If you reach out about your annual Christmas Fair, for example, or a Farmer's Market,  or whatever you have going on, they have the opportunity to get lots of good visuals and will probably let you appear on camera since you initiated it. Make the station's life easier and you're their friend!
    Good luck and thanks again for getting my wheels turning too!

    Debra Moore
    Board Member

  • 4.  RE: Media relationships

    Posted 01-20-2023 08:35 AM
    Definitely check out this 5-minute video on developing relationships with the media. Nikki Reck is an ex-tv journalist who also worked as Public Information Officer for a shelter in Tucson-- a wealth of knowledge!

    Also this blog she wrote: 

    Kelly Duer
    Senior Community Solutions Initiative Specialist
    Maddie's Fund

  • 5.  RE: Media relationships

    Posted 01-20-2023 08:46 AM

    Have you tried partnering your projects or interests with some of the larger shelters or organizations in your area?  This may help you use some of the connections they already have.  If you don't already have a relationship with the bigger orgs, then work at forming some type of alliance with them.  I would also suggest doing research on some of the personalities at the local new stations (whether tv, newspaper, or radio) or the head of the stations.  What has worked for us is finding the "animal lovers" and pitching to them directly as opposed to reaching out to the media in general.  It sometimes comes down to who you know.  Also, try finding a local celebrity, like  a player with your local sports team, who is an animal advocate and get them to support you in some way.  The media will be all over that if a celeb or big personality is involved.  Below are some of the ideas that have worked for us to gain media coverage.
    • We worked with our local fire department and police department to make a calendar that we sell to the public.  The firefighters and officers posed with some of our pets which resulted in media coverage.
    • We found out one of the Houston Astros players is an animal advocate and invited him to our shelter.  It gained news and social media coverage.
    • We reached out to our county officials during election time and got them to visit the shelter.  That definitely gained media coverage.
    I hope this helps at all.  Best wishes and good luck to you.

    Tamara Cook
    Interim Project Manager
    Harris County Pets - VPH