3 Ways to Localize Content for News Coverage

By Kylie Moore

There are plenty of ways to get media coverage for your business – but when it comes to the most sought-after coverage, local news is a dark horse. In our own marketing strategy, we’ve found that local news media plays a much larger part in link-building than you might expect.

The proof: According to Muckrack, a majority of journalists say they are more likely to share research about timely subjects – but 62% look specifically for topics that can be easily localized.

In 2022 alone, Digital Third Coast earned 3,425 placements in local television, radio, and newspapers across the nation. Our content was shared by local outlets in 49 out of the 50 states, reaching millions of people.

[Learn more: How Local News Syndicates Online]

To answer the question: how do you reach local audiences, you must first answer, “how do you make content for local news?” Simply put, the content has to be both newsworthy and relate directly to the audience in a specific city, state, or region.

Without question, local news is an undervalued source of authoritative links – but not all content is geared toward local media. In this blog, we’ll explore how to localize content in three different ways to make it local news friendly.

1. Local Data Sources

  • Pros: reliable, vetted, nationwide data sets that are free to use
  • Cons: can be time-consuming to evaluate, not able to zero in on hyper-specific questions you may want to ask
  • Campaign example: using U.S. Census data to find out what cities have the most renters and homeowners
A map of the United States showing the cities with the most renters.

2. Local Behaviors Online

  • Pros: can provide insights on a wide variety of topics by analyzing Google search trends, social media posts
  • Cons: need to be aware of what to search to get accurate results
  • Campaign example: by analyzing Google search trends, we found the most popular DIY trends in each state
A map of the US showing the most popular DIY project in each state.

3. Local Surveys

  • Pros: creative control, ability to ask any questions you’d like
  • Cons: typically, survey services come at a cost
  • Campaign example: surveying 1,000 people to find out what fans think are the best and worst NBA mascots
A list of NBA fans' favorite mascots.

Local Data Sources

Knowing how to localize a story is everything when trying to get the attention of local news reporters. Keep in mind, the way their stories stand out from the media pack against larger, national outlets is by keeping it hyper-local. Their audience is interested in them because they’re exclusively talking or writing about what’s happening in their area. So, your content idea must reflect that!

A simple way to localize your content is by turning to data specific to a local audience. Local news loves local data, especially when it comes from reputable sources. However, many local reporters don’t have time to comb through databases or annual reports – but you, the content marketer, do. 

When chosen carefully, data-rich sources like these offer excellent information that can practically write the story on their own. At Digital Third Coast, we have a few favorites, mainly those with indisputable government data:

  • The United States Census Bureau: Great for population statistics, including demographics, employment trends, and home cost
  • U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Perfect for industry-specific statistics
  • The CDC: Provides in-depth insights on health issues across the nation including mental health, heart health, pregnancy, and much more
  • Pew Research Center: Well-respected research and analyses conducted on a rolling basis; covers everything from religion to politics to journalism
  • Data.gov: The US government’s open data source with a diverse collection of tools and datasets great for timely topics

Now that you have the data, it’s time to figure out how to localize it. Databases come equipped to filter by state, city, or in some cases, even county, data that will enable you to get the data relevant to local journalists. You can even combine city- and state-level data to give your story an extra boost.

Three examples of localized content campaign maps.

If you’re only interested in earning media coverage in one specific region or state, find opportunities to analyze data on the city or county level and create content catered to that. The more hyper-local your focus, the greater your chances of landing media coverage in media like local community newspapers and radio stations in that market

Using data from the County Health Rankings, we were able to uncover that the south has a particularly big issue with dental deserts. The worst of all – is in Madison County, Georgia, where there is only 1 dentist for every 30,460 people. That means just one dentist is serving every single person who lives in the county! We used these findings to pitch journalists in that area who can highlight that problem.

[Pitching tip: Use the state, city, or town’s name in your email subject line to increase your email open rates]

If you’re interested in getting more widespread coverage, state-by-state data analyses or analyses of data for major US metropolitan areas may be your best bet to maximizing coverage. 

Local Behaviors, Online

How else can you localize content? By going straight to the source…people’s search histories.

Local stories don’t solely consist of hard, government-backed data to gain local news coverage. In fact, local news has a hearty appetite for soft news about their audience.

For content on the lighter side, it’s easy to find data locally relevant by identifying digital behaviors for certain states or cities. In fact, some of our most successful link building campaigns have come from this type of “light” data. 

So-called “light” data can encompass online search behaviors and trends, consumer studies, and social media analyses.

Three maps showing how surveys can be used for content campaigns.

What are some of the best sources to find local behaviors online?

  • Google Trends: Shows search interest of a particular topic or search term over a period of time, across various regions of the world and in a variety of different languages. [Helpful Tip: it can be used to narrow down the most commonly Googled question or topic in city-specific or state-specific searches]
  • Consumer studies: Offer incredible insights about everything from personal habits to personal spending, and they’re far more common than you think. [Helpful tip: a number of higher education institutions often conduct these studies; you might start there]
  • Social media: Shows us what people are thinking, feeling, and experiencing in locations across the country. [Helpful tip: using geotags, hashtags, and scraping tools, you’ll find visual news stories to tell]

We use all of the above to localize stories, however, Google trends analysis is the technique we use most often.

How to Localize National Stories Using Google Trends

Here at Digital Third Coast, we have used Google trends to localize Digital PR content ideas on everything from the most popular Super Bowl party snack in each state to the biggest tax procrastinators by state.

Two maps showing popular foods and the states with the most tax procrastinators

Both of the above content pieces earned our clients over 150 links because each had a localized hook. 

Here’s how we use this tool to our advantage.

A screenshot of keyword planner in Google Ads.

By going into Google Ads and clicking Keyword Planner, you will see this screen. To explain how each tab works, let’s say we are using Google Trends to find out each state’s favorite candy to give out for Halloween.

First, let’s start with the “discover new keywords” tab. This gives you the ability to see hundreds or even thousands of relatable terms to a given list of keywords. For instance, we typed in “Hershey’s”, “Godiva”, “Twix”, “Snickers”, and “Reese’s” and it yielded 2,554 keywords ideas that relate to chocolate.

A screenshot of Google Ads showing how you can discover new keywords
A screenshot showing search volume for candy bars.

We can repeat this step several times using different keywords in the search tab, like “M&Ms”, “Twizzlers”, and “Milk Duds”, until we feel we have enough keywords to get a reliable and robust data set. Once you’re finished with that, you’re ready to localize your content!

Now, we’ll use the “get search volume and forecasts” tab. This lets you zero in on how often people are searching for a specific topic and from what region (state, county, city, etc.). We will copy and paste the list we just created of new candy related keywords in the “get search volume and forecasts” tab and hit get started.

A screenshot of keyword planner in Google Ads.
A screenshot of search volume and forecast.

Now, click the geotag to select the location where you want to pull your data. In this case, we’re looking at state-by-state data, so we will start with Alabama. 

A screenshot showing hte next step in GA.
A screenshot showing the state of Alabama highlighted

This step lets us see how often Alabama is searching for those 2,554 keywords related to chocolate and how often. We’d repeat this step for all 50 states. Then, evaluate which terms are the most popular in each state and create a map to reflect the candy craze!

A map showing the most popular candy in each state

Localized Surveys

If the data you’re looking for doesn’t exist, you can commission your own survey about the topic. You can target your survey to one particular local audience or a national audience of local news consumers.

Surveys that highlight data from regional audiences make great assets for local journalism. We’ve all seen news reports leading with “a new survey finds,” and that’s because local media outlets love new, local data.

Here are some of our best practices for conducting consumer sentiment surveys.

Sample size guidelines

At Digital Third Coast, we prefer to conduct studies with 2,000 respondents, but sometimes go down to 1,000 respondents for a niche topic. These more niche topics have included pet ownership and buying a home. The reason we typically aim for 2,000 respondents is to hear from a large enough audience that we capture the average sentiment.

GIF of woman on phone

Scientific surveys

In order for a survey to be considered scientific, Versta Research says there should be a few key elements to it:

  • The questionnaire is direct, unambiguous, and unbiased
  • Respondents are representative of population
  • Systematic data collection, take time to methodically analyze results
  • Reporting is neutral and consists of a number of different data points, rather than a cherry-picked selection.

Best tools to conduct a survey

These are some of our favorite survey tools:

  • SurveyMonkey: An online survey software that allows users to create and run professional, online surveys, quizzes, and polls for their audience. Feedback can be gathered using weblinks, emails, social media, and more, and plans range from $25-$75 per month.
  • Amazon Mechanical Turk: Mechanical Turk (MTurk) is a crowdsourcing platform that relies on survey takers who are paid for their time. There is a minimum fee of $0.01 per respondent.
  • Qualtrics: Survey platform with drag-and-drop UX, geolocation capabilities, and statistical analysis technology built in. Subscription plans for Qualtrics begin at $1,500 per year.
  • Prolific: An online survey software that allows users to build their own survey and filter respondents by broad elements such as age and location as well as more niche topics (pet ownership, video game habits, screen time, etc). Pricing begins at $6.50 per hour per participant with an additional 33% service fee.

Ready to Learn More About Our Comprehensive Local Strategy?

Have we convinced you of the SEO benefits of localizing your content strategy? It’s not just about local content, it’s a holistic approach to earning your website the most authoritative, well-respected inbound links possible. 

If you’re interested in finding out what our digital PR campaigns would look like for your business, let us know!

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