Contacting the Media
PNHP issues press releases for media campaigns roughly six times per year. During these campaigns, activists are encouraged to contact their local media to inform them of the development in question and encourage them to cover it in a story.
PNHP Press Release Mailing List
PNHP distributes press releases via our main mailing lists. PNHP members are automatically subscribed to this list. (be sure to add the addresses firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com to your “safe senders” list so our messages will not be put in your spam box.)
Non-members can subscribe to the mailing list by visiting the website at www.pnhp.org
Which Media to Contact
A PNHP media campaign is an ideal way to begin building a press list. Once you get a PNHP press release, think about where you get your news from: the newspapers and journals you read, the radio news or talk stations you listen to, and the broadcast news or public television programs you watch. Make a list of media sources you think would be interested in the topic.
If you need more ideas, the PNHP staff maintains a list of media contacts and can help with ideas. Contact the office at 312-782-6006 or firstname.lastname@example.org
How to Get Media Contact Information
It can sometimes be difficult to find contact information for your local media. Most of the time, a Google search will find you the best way to contact the outlet in question. For newspapers, Google the name of the publication. For television and radio stations, it is usually easier if you have the call letters of the station (WFLD, for instance), but you can also search the name of the broadcast station, channel or city. (ABC 7 Chicago, for example.)
Once you have found the website for the station or publication, there will usually be a link to contact information somewhere on the page. Usually these links are at the very top or bottom of the page, or in a menu bar. The links commonly say “Contact Us” or “About.”
If you are still having trouble finding contact information for the publication or station in question, contact the PNHP office at 312-782-6006 or email@example.com.
Making a Press Call
“Pitch calls” can be intimidating but are actually quite easy. The trick is to be able to quickly convey the important points of the story in a few opening sentences.
As you think about what to say on your call, use the PNHP press release as a guide. (Keep it by you when you make your press call, it can help you remember the story if you get lost, and can provide quick facts if the reporter asks for them). The most important facts are at the top, the least important at the bottom. Your opening “pitch” should look a lot like the first two or three sentences of the press release. Here is an example from the attached sample press release:
“A new study in the American Journal of Public Health has found that Canadians are healthier than Americans, and also have better access to care. Even though the U.S. spends twice as much on care, we have higher rates of nearly every chronic disease and are more likely to go without needed care or medicine.”
If you need more help or clarification, contact the PNHP office.
Once you know what you’re going to say, write it down. Keep this “script” next to you along with the press release when you make your calls.
How to Find the Right Person to Talk To
Even if you’ve gotten contact information for your local paper or NPR station, you may not know the right person to talk to. Some websites will have directory of staff people with personal numbers or extensions. All media outlets are different, but here are some general rules to help you identify the appropriate person to contact:
- Newspapers: Some newspapers staff a health reporter, but many don’t. Even in those that don’t have a formal health person, usually there is someone in the office who is assigned to take health stories. Look for the Assignment Editor or the News Desk Editor; they should be able to tell you who it is.
- Television or Radio Broadcast: Larger news stations will have individual reporters, but medium and smaller ones may not. Look for the News Director.
- Television or Radio Programs: TV and Radio programs have producers who make decisions about what to cover and who to book (for local programs many times the host is the producer). Look for this person.
If you don’t have a staff directory or can’t find the appropriate person:
- Call the main number on the website or provided by the PNHP office.
- Ask the person who answers the phone for the newsroom (for newspapers and broadcast news / television) or the producer of the program in question.
- Once you get the newsroom, ask for the person who covers health stories. They should be able to direct you to someone.
Making the Pitch
Once you know you’re talking to the right person, its time to make your pitch. Tell them right of the bat that you’ve got a story for them. Also be sure to let them know that you are a physician in the community. Use your script and press release to guide you. Always offer to send the press release for more information. Here’s the idea:
REPORTER: Hello, John Smith.
YOU: Hi, this is Dr. Jones from Community Hospital. I have a story I think you may be interested in.
REPORTER: Sure. What have you got?
YOU: There’s a new study in the American Journal of Public Health that’s found Canadians are healthier than Americans and also have better access to care. Even though the U.S. spends twice as much on care, we have higher rates of nearly every chronic disease and are more likely to go without needed care or medicine.
REPORTER: Interesting. This is out today?
YOU: No, it is embargoed until the 30th. I can send you the press release and materials if you’d like.
REPORTER: Sounds great. My e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org
PNHP press releases are both e-mailed to members and posted on the PNHP website. When you send an e-mail to a reporter, it is usually best to send the text of the press release in the body of the message rather than as an electronic attachment.
If you’re lucky, your reporter may write a story. Lots of mid-size and local news outlets get their national news from the Associated Press, but a call from a local physician can sometimes make the difference in getting a story noticed when it comes off the wire.
If you did get a story, it’s not a bad idea to follow-up with the reporter. If she did a good job covering it, thank her. If there’s something she missed or misinterpreted, gently let her know about it. Most of all, take the opportunity to invite further contact. Let the reporter know you are a physician in the community and are available to talk about the health system and health policy. You may even find yourself called for comment on other stories. Finally, if you have a good contact with a reporter, let the PNHP office know about it at 312-782-6006 or email@example.com.