How do you identify newsworthy stories where you work or live, especially newsworthy stories about yourself or your company that you can pitch to the media in the hope of getting some free publicity?

By remembering a semi-famous quote from the late Speaker of the House Of Representatives, Tip O’Neill – ‘All politics is local.’

In a sense, all news is local because even global issues often have a local impact. Here are some powerful strategies for spotting opportunities when they present themselves.

‘Piggybacking’ simply means putting a fresh or different twist on something that’s already in the news. You might have you seen a story on the Today Show that reflects something that’s happening in your industry. Call the station that airs the Today Show and offer a ‘local angle.’ They’ll probably interview you as part of the story. You can piggyback on news items, trends, holidays, or community events – the possibilities never end.

Trends, new ideas and technologies make for good stories. When my wife and I opened the first South Texas Subway Sandwich Shop inside a convenience store, we got a front-page write-up in The San Antonio Business Journal. It included a color picture of us standing in front of our location. Buying an equal amount of ad space would have cost about $8,000.

If you’re part of a large company or organization (university, non-profit, etc.) and you’ve got a lot of people who are qualified to comment on a wide variety of topics, create and distribute a directory. It can be elaborate or simple – as long as your media contacts can find a suitable expert quickly. Include names, titles, and contact numbers (day and evening) and post your list on your website.

Polls, surveys, tip sheets, and quizzes make great fillers. Your data doesn’t need to be scientific or statistically significant, just interesting. Unique contests, such as Thrifty Rent-a-Car’s annual Honeymoon Disasters Contest, can generate tons of coverage.

The media love controversy and (despite frequent accusations to the contrary) most go out of their way to present both sides of a story. If you can offer a contrarian point of view – and you can explain your case – reporters will often
give you an opportunity.

You can get the media’s attention to publicize upcoming events: classes, open houses, free demonstrations, visits by celebrities. Publicity before the event helps spark interest and boost attendance.

Human-interest stories are everywhere, including your business. Think about people in your company, group, or organization. Does someone have an intriguing hobby? Pitch their story to the local media.

Even the weather and climate can give you a hook for free publicity. Homebuilders and remodelers can offer tips about saving energy. Doctors can suggest tips avoiding colds and flu during the winter.

TV stations and cable channels, radio stations, newspapers, magazines, trade publications, and newsletters – both print and electronic – have huge amounts of time and space to fill.

There are more opportunities than ever, and competition is fierce for advertising dollars, viewers and subscribers. The secret to success is knowing exactly what they’re looking for – and giving it to them with a local twist.

Subscribe to George McKenzie’s ‘Get Free Publicity’ Ezine and receive a 5-day mini-course on how to get for thousands of dollars worth of positive — and positively free — advertising and publicity at

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