How to amplify government stories through media coverage
From left to right in photo above: Samantha Donaldson of the Partnership for Public Service, Jason Miller of Federal News Network, Tom Shoop of Government Executive, Lia Russell of Federal Computer Week and Jessie Bur of Federal Times. Photo by Jeku Arce.
Government stories are all around us—but just how easy are they to pitch? Whether a public affairs officer is trying to land a feature article or put a federal agency principal in front of a camera, working with the media can be tricky.
We tackled the question of productive media relations recently, at a gathering of the Federal Communicators Network—a professional community of public affairs officers scattered across government. The people leading agency press efforts sat down with members of the media to uncover the secrets of landing good media coverage.
Here’s what we learned:
- Media loves a “cool thing” story. Our panelists all agreed they are eager to learn about fun initiatives going on in government. Offer your agency’s success stories with an unexpected angle. Take a risk with your pitch and see where it takes you.
- Your press office must be accessible. Reporters are often crunched for time. Help them meet their deadlines by making your press process easier to navigate. Respond to all requests with urgency—a quick turnaround should always be your top priority.
- Education is part of the process. Government work is complicated, and journalists aren’t always going to “get” your pitch. Be available to field questions from your media contacts to help educate and inform their writing. Remember: You can always speak on background to avoid jumping through a complicated press process.
- Relationships take time. Develop meaningful relationships with your press contacts. Being a communicator requires you to do more than pitch reporters—you must build media connections that can last for years to come. Go ahead and schedule a coffee to get started.
- Brevity is better. Keep your pitches, press releases and official statements useful and concise. Everyone is trying to get reporters to bite at their news—make yours stand out and pack a punch (without forcing them to read a novel). Think like a reporter and provide them with what they need—no more, no less.
We all have news we want to get out there. The key to a successful media relations strategy is to find meaning in your stories and in your relationships. Build connections with a wide variety of reporters, look throughout the agency for exciting stories, and explore new media outlets to amplify your agency’s message.
Watch the panels to gain more tips and tricks on how to work with media.
Learn more about the Federal Communicators Network and how you can get involved.