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Posted: May 12, 2009

The secrets to getting your message out

How to get reporters and editors to notice your pitches

Esty Atlas

Ninety-eight percent of the adults in this country are decent, hardworking, honest Americans. It’s the other lousy 2 percent that get all the publicity. But then, we elected them.” –Lily Tomlin
What do editors and reporters look for?  What do they think is newsworthy?

“Why couldn’t you get our story in the press?” screams your client. Often, it boggles the mind. I’ll share a recent experience. Our agency is in the process of filming a very unique high-definition DVD to increase awareness about water management in a state that has serious water problems… Colorado. Our client represents 18 water providers who serve 325,000 people in Douglas and south Arapahoe counties. 

We were able to secure sponsorship support from Lockheed Martin Space Systems, which was more than happy to help explain water management and technologies used in spaceflight. At their expense, the company actually flew in a four-time shuttle astronaut from Houston to film at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

Astronaut Brian Duffy has logged 40 days, 17 hours, 34 minutes and 59 seconds as pilot of Atlantis and Endeavor and crew commander on a second Endeavor mission, as well as Discovery. No small potatoes. He carefully explained the high-tech aspects of water management and how space exploration benefits us on earth. We issued a media advisory, complete with the astronaut’s detailed bio, the reasons for the water education video that will be shared through schools and throughout the many Colorado communities, whose residents are affected by rising water costs and limited supply.

This seemed like a unique opportunity for press to speak, firsthand, with someone of  high caliber. Local TV and print press were invited, called and reminded the day of.  No confirmations. No cameras.

Today, resources are slim to none as assignment editors wait for ‘breaking news.’  The rollover accident. The ‘onesy-and-twosey’ stories that affect few people, instead of the stories that would benefit so many. It still boggles the rational mind, sometimes. Catching press attention (in the way that you want it) takes perseverance, creativity and occasional humor.

Example: Remember when the owner of the Colorado Rockies won the National League Championship with a history-setting 21 of 22 game wins in a row? Then, you’ll also remember they were trounced in four games by the Boston Red Sox to lose the World Series. Without haste, Frontier Airlines cleverly dispatched a small, but to-the-point ad in the local papers: “Now You Know Why We Don’t Fly To Boston.”  They included immediate airline specials elsewhere, which quickly sold-out.

Beyond building relationships with the press, who today are changing or disappearing altogether at light speed, the new ‘mean-and-lean’ traditional forms of newspaper and news media channels are now one of a zillion forms of networking and public outreach.  Regardless of whether you are trying to break through to broadcast reporters, print or online networking sites, there are basic marketing principles to help you break through the clutter:

Concisely write up your story in standard press release format and state why it’s important.

Explain how consumers will benefit from your story.  

Read what IS making the news in your community press, trade journals and within your closest consumer pool.

Create an incentive that is too good to pass up.

Follow-up on your submissions, repeat, remind and then plan your follow-up approach.

Grow a loyal following by sharing your news and ask your inner circle to share it with theirs.

Find a different spin.

Gov. Bill Ritter just agreed to participate in our water video. Ultimately, it’s about helping to inspire and educate our youth and their families to learn responsible water habits. He gets it. Lockheed Martin gets it. Douglas County gets it. Our next generation deserves it. And those of us behind the scenes charged with getting the word out will keep charging forward. Soon, inefficient water habits will change for the better. There are lots of ways to get your message out. Capitalize on every opportunity.

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Esty Atlas is a four-time Emmy award-winning writer, specializing in leadership communications, media and public relations. 303-919-2425; email: or

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