National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day provides a great opportunity to attract media coverage for your system of care.
Initiate relationships with the media and establish your program as a year-round resource on children’s mental health using the following resources.
A media list is a list of journalists, reporters, bloggers, or other members of the media, along with their contact information and associated outlet. Creating a media list will help you keep track of who covers behavioral health topics in your area, and who is likely to be interested in your event or story.
When creating your media list, be sure to:
- Keep track of who has covered your activities in the past.
- Research members of the media who previously have covered children’s mental health, behavioral health, or other related topics. There also may be a specific reporter who covers your particular neighborhood or community. You can find them by searching through the archives of local outlets with key words such as “mental health” or “children’s health.” Search for top bloggers who cover topics related to children and young adult behavioral health. For example, if you are looking for mental health bloggers, try a search for “Huffington Post top mental health bloggers.”
- Be creative when connecting your activities to the media. For instance, a story about an Awareness Day concert may be of interest to a music reporter.
- Remember, not everyone receives news from newspapers. Don’t forget local newsletters, community calendars, public bulletin boards, and social media pages where you may be able to post information. Some places to look include:
- Schools, colleges, and universities
- Public government buildings or courthouses
- Churches, synagogues, and other faith-based organizations
- Youth centers
- Health clubs
One way to generate media coverage of Awareness Day is to “pitch” (request) feature stories, coverage of an Awareness Day activity, or inclusion in a calendar. A pitch could involve inviting a reporter to your event so that they can craft their own story. A pitch also could involve offering stats and quotes to a blogger and persuading them to write about your Awareness Day event.
Pitches are generally in the form of an email or phone call and answer the following questions:
- What is the potential story? (Include details about the who, what, when, and where.)
- Why does this story matter?
- What makes this story newsworthy?
- How is this story relevant to this media outlet and its audiences?
Here are some ways to improve your pitch:
- Get noticed.
- For emails, stand out with a strong subject line. This is your first chance to grab the reporter’s attention.
- Your pitch should be short and sweet. Emails should only be one or two paragraphs.
- Be considerate of the reporter’s needs.
- Remember that media outlets have different requirements for the way information is presented. For instance, if you pitch to a radio station, you may suggest that the reporter interview your spokesperson. For a newspaper, you may offer to send photos or include their photographer on the pitch, so they can come out to your event and get pictures themselves. For a blogger, offer to give them shareable materials such as blog badges or social media graphics for them to share with their networks.
- If you offer a spokesperson for your story, be sure that person is willing and prepared to talk to the media. Be sure to prepare talking points for your spokesperson, so that they have all the information they need to answer any question asked.
- Reporters are often in search of “quotable” quotes to bring their story to life. Think about the best way to describe your event and prepare some short sentences that can be used to answer these inevitable questions.
- Be aware of deadlines and help media members get the information they need in a timely fashion.
- Develop a relationship with the media.
- Position yourself as a helpful resource on behavioral health.
- Thank reporters for their time with a quick email or phone call.
- Be aware.
- Avoid telling reporters anything you would not want to appear in the media.
- Do not include anything in the email that you would not want to see in print; reporters can and sometimes do use email content as a quote.
- Be honest and let the reporter know if you are facing a confidentiality issue.
- Sometimes breaking, national news hits right when you planned to pitch. Accept this reality and do not pitch in the midst of such events.
How to Effectively Pitch Bloggers
Bloggers rarely list their phone number on their websites, so you most likely will have to pitch them via email. Look for a contact form or email listed on their blog. Bloggers are used to getting thousands of pitches in their inboxes.
Here are a few tips to help make your pitch stand out:
- Be personal.
- Bloggers know when you’ve included them in a massive email outreach. If they have their names on their blogs, address them by their name, rather than their blog title, in your pitch email. If you sound like a person instead of a spam robot, you are much more likely to get a positive response.
- Perfect the subject line.
- The first thing bloggers will see is the subject line of your email. You want to grab their attention without looking like a spam email. Avoid using caps lock, as it often can look fake. Be concise and to the point. If your subject line does not have an impact, chances are it will not get opened.
- Bloggers are busy and attention spans on the Internet are short. If you have a complex campaign, explain it briefly and link back to your website for more information. Tell the blogger why you have chosen to pitch them: reference something specific in their blog, what you want them to do, and why they should do it.
- Give them access to a toolkit if you have one. Give them facts, images, and links to pertinent information that will make their job easier.
- Sometimes bloggers will miss your first email. It is perfectly acceptable to follow up if you do not get any response, as long as some time passes between the pitches. However, if you get a reply back that says they are not interested, take them off your pitch list.
- Keep it short.
- Make it easy.
- Follow up.
There are many kinds of media outlets, each with their own forms of submitting content. Below, find tips for some of the more common media tools.
What is a news/press release? A news release is a short article that provides the background information and key facts of a story. Reporters and editors use news releases to determine whether or not they want to learn more and pursue a story.
What is the format? News releases generally are no more than one page and follow AP Style. They should include the who, what, when, where, and importance of your Awareness Day activity. You should grab your reader in the first sentence, and then present information in order of descending importance. News releases should include facts and exclude opinions or editorializing. They also should include contact information for the person at your organization who will coordinate all media requests.
Where do I send it? You can send your news release to newspaper and magazine editors, news directors or public service announcement directors of radio stations, or news directors of local television stations. Remember to follow the outlet’s submission guidelines. Write a catchy and succinct subject line and send the release in the body of the email (sending the release as an attachment adds an unnecessary extra step for editors). Consider including multimedia—for instance, embedding a photo with a link to a high-resolution version inside the email.
What is a drop-in article? A drop-in article is a type of news article that is written for direct insertion into community or weekly newspapers or a blog.
How should I format my drop-in article?
- Familiarize yourself with the article format and style found in weekly and community newspapers and mirror it as best you can.
- Keep it short, sweet, and easy to read. Limit your article to no more than 600 words and tailor it to an eighth-grade reading level.
- Briefly articulate messages and facts about your program and children’s and youth’s mental health needs in an engaging and newsworthy way.
- Give your article a direct link to the local audience.
- Send your article in whatever format the publication prefers (print vs. electronic, PDF vs. Word, etc.).
Where do I send it? The more places that receive your drop-in article, the higher the odds for placement. Consider sending the article to:
- Community newspapers
- School newsletters or newspapers
- Supermarket news handouts
- E-blasts to your mailing list
- PTA/PTO newsletters
- School administration publications
- Relevant blogs that deal with similar topics to your article
What is an op-ed? Op-ed is short for “opposite the editorial page” and is a piece typically published by newspapers, magazines, and the like that expresses the opinions of a named author usually not affiliated with the publication’s editorial board. It is an article that includes opinion or commentary on a specific topic that is current in the news. It makes a direct appeal to local newspaper readers.
What is the format? Limit your article to about 750 words or less. Connect your opinion to a timely news discussion and include a call to action. You may urge your readers to attend your National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day activities in order to learn more about your services and supports, to refer a child or adolescent who might be overcoming mental health needs, or to educate state or local representatives about behavioral health needs in your community. These suggestions are meant to stimulate ideas; feel free to develop a call to action of your own that meets your program’s specific needs and goals.
Where do I send it? Check the op-ed submission guidelines specific to each newspaper. While you can reach for coverage in a national paper, you are more likely to get published in regional or local papers.
What are proclamations? Proclamations are statements issued by government officials that recognize the importance of an event or achievement. Though proclamations are not considered media tools, an Awareness Day proclamation from a governor, mayor, or local official can help attract media attention and raise awareness about your system of care.
How do I submit a proclamation? If you’d like to obtain a letter of proclamation, be sure to start the process as early as possible, because it can take a while to secure. Research how to contact the official, whether it be directly or through an aide within their office.