More pointers on working with local journalists

by Public Relations Staff

October 28, 2009 — Do you have a good relationship with a local journalist? Consider sending a brief e-mail about the parity law taking effect in January 2010 and the availability of an APA fact sheet to help consumers understand the new law: "How Does the New Mental Health Parity Law Affect My Insurance Coverage?"

If you decide to reach out to media, it's important to contact a reporter you already know and make sure you understand the reporter's beat. Does your media contact usually cover mental health, insurance or workplace issues? If not, then ask your media contact if she or he can recommend the appropriate reporter.

Another key to pitching a story idea to journalists is having a timely news hook. Open enrollment season provides an ideal time to pitch a story on how the parity law is relevant to consumers. Open enrollment refers to an annual period of time during the fall when employers offering more than one health plan allow employees to switch their insurance coverage. Many local media outlets produce news stories on open enrollment since it affects so many people.

Another timely news hook includes New Year's: "A new year, a new law goes into effect."

If you don't have any media contacts but are interested pitching a story, be sure to identify the appropriate reporter at your local newspaper, radio or television station.

Read, watch and get to know media outlets. Get a sense of the type of stories they cover and who reports them. If a local talk radio program only covers local sports, for example, that program wouldn't be a good prospect for pitching a story about mental health parity.

Pay attention to the names of reporters or writers in bylines. If you see a health-related story or notice that a particular reporter has taken an interest in something related to insurance or employee benefits, make a note of the name. Use any of these names as the start of a media list. You will often find their e-mail addresses or phone numbers attached to a story. If not, you can either call the newsroom and ask for contact details or check the media outlet Web site.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss public relations initiatives related to parity, e-mail the APA Practice Directorate Public Relations Office.