Think Visual to Attract Media Attention
Of all the community partners identified in the EMS Week Planning Guide, perhaps none is more influential than the media, which has the power to disseminate information - both good and bad—to thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people in a powerful and authoritative way.
While EMS should pay attention to the media every month of the year, August is typically a slow month for news, so it's a good time to rev up your outreach efforts to local reporters, editors and television personalities upon whom you depend year-round. There are many ways to teach the media about EMS. You could:
Host a media academy*
Invite the media for a ride-along or a station visit*
Pitch the media on a PSA*
Issue a press release for a special event*
Set up media interviews with a local hero
Update your Web site so it is media friendly
You can make your own PSA or use one created by another organization, such as NAEMT (view the NAEMT PSA online at www.NAEMT.org)
* Denotes online resource at www.emsweek.org
Iron Chef or Iron Chief?
Either Way, the Public Loves ‘Em
For what it's worth, America is in love with televised competition. Where sports fans once shouted at their 12-inch screens over the Super Bowl or the Daytona 500, today everyone and their grandmothers are clearing their calendars to be in front of the TV in time for Survivor, American Idol, The Biggest Loser, America's Next Top Model, and Project Runway. Why not take advantage of this attraction to antagonism by staging some friendly competition of your own?
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, did just that with its Iron Chef Competition, which mimics the Iron Chef show on the Food Network. Myrtle Beach's Iron Chef competition, created by Fire Chief Bruce Arnel along with city Culture Services Director Jimmy Walters, is for firehouse chefs only.
The first contest was held in July 2008. Myrtle Beach Fire Department chefs from all four shifts competed against each other, preparing dishes that used the "secret ingredient" - chicken. Each chef had to select three vegetables from nearby vendors at the local farmers' market, and then prepare their dishes on grills they had brought to the event. Three-person teams were given two hours to prepare 100 sample-size servings. "A" shift won with a delicious chicken cordon bleu.
Soon, Arnel began to receive calls from other firehouses that wanted to compete, so a second regional Iron Chef competition was held. Chefs from Myrtle Beach, Midway, Horry, North Myrtle Beach and Conway county fire departments came to Myrtle's Market, ready to do battle. The secret ingredient for this show-down? Shrimp and grits.
Entries are judged on taste, presentation and originality. And, like the TV show, three judges taste the dishes and make the call. Judges are local city officials and always someone from the media, Arnel said, noting, "They bring their own TV crews." The winner of the shrimp-and-grits challenge was Midway Fire Department. "They used diced peaches, maple syrup and brown sugar in the grits. It tasted like a cobbler," Arnel said. Winning chefs take home a traveling trophy that features a barbecue grill on top.
"We weren't sure we could get the guys excited by the event, but they've really latched on to it," Arnel noted. So has the media. And the fire department uses the opportunity to distribute safety literature during the event. "Next time we may try to raise money for charity by asking for donations for the food samples," Arnel added.
Think like a reporter Ask yourself these key questions:
Is this story informative, entertaining, amusing or emotive? You are competing with other community events and news for time on the air or in the newspaper. You have to make your event appealing, while at the same time recognizing that event coverage is out of your control.
Is this story exclusive? Don't spread yourself too thin by issuing the same press release to everyone. Reporters want to be courted individually. Develop a media pitch tailored to a specific reporter; then call that reporter and offer the story as an exclusive.
For television, is this story highly visual? Will cameras be able to capture informative, entertaining or heart-wrenching images and sounds? Plan an event with good visuals. No one wants to cover a meeting.
Once you have a great story idea, identify local print, TV and radio reporters and the best way to contact them. Get the deadlines for each news outlet. Remember that monthly magazines plan their publications months in advance, and communitybased weekly newspapers often work weeks ahead.
Alert reporters in advance of the event and follow up several times as the event approaches. Consider pitching article ideas for pre-event stories as well as day-of-event coverage. Develop story pitches geared specifically to the news outlet's audience.