How to Get Local News News Coverage

By Kylie Moore

Local news coverage is incredibly important for many clients, particularly clients that are grounded in regional or local markets, either as B2C businesses or B2B businesses that offer local-specific services.

Local news coverage appears in most households, whether it’s in the form of local TV news segments, local radio stations on a morning commute, or headlines in a local paper– it can be a powerful tool to get your content in front of many eyes and ears. 

So how DO you make content for local news? And how do you reach local audiences with your content? Here’s the ultimate guide to getting your content local news coverage, from creating content best suited to the needs of local media to strategic, locally focused pitching optimized for hard-pressed local journalists. 

What is Local News Coverage?

Local news coverage is defined as coverage in locally-focused media outlets, typically radio, TV, or newspaper. These stations cover a designated market area, or DMA, or even a subsection of a DMA. A designated market area is a zone of coverage, typically based around one or a few cities; the United States boasts 200+ DMAs. 

As opposed to national coverage, which would look like high-profile publications like the New York Times or CNN, local coverage stays within its DMA; it’s also more likely to syndicate or run the same story on multiple outlets.

Local news coverage more commonly runs more niche, community-based stories– which makes it perfect to target for your content and link building campaigns. 

Why Securing Local News Coverage is Important

Local news coverage is ideally suited to run stories based on data from surveys or rankings, because the takeaways can easily be locally applicable, and many journalists want to showcase stories that impact their consumers. Because local news stations have authoritative websites, backlinks earned here will add link equity to your content campaign, showing Google that the content you create is helpful to users. 

Not only that, but because there’s so much variety in local coverage, from breaking TV news to regional magazines and everything in between, your backlink profile will be diverse AND robust. 

Many national outlets won’t run content because they’re too busy covering stories of national importance. This isn’t to say don’t pitch them, but it is more difficult to secure coverage, particularly since some large outlets like Forbes have their own digital PR content to use as well. 

Local outlets, however, will likely have more space for data from content campaigns, particularly campaigns that highlight their region specifically- local news loves local stories, after all. While they might not have quite as much domain authority, local news outlets are well respected and authoritative, so their link equity is valuable when applied to your site. 

How to Localize Content for News Coverage

So how do you make content designed to earn coverage by local news outlets?

We’ve created a short guide to localized content creation, covering everything from brainstorming to data collection methods, rankings, tracking Google Trends, local surveys, and more.

Brainstorming local content ideas

Everyone lives somewhere; think about what you’re most interested in hearing about where you live. Maybe it’s the weather, or insights into local businesses or consumer trends. Perhaps you’d like to hear how national trends affect your specific area… or if your city is the best (or worst) at something in the nation. All of these are great entry points to creating local content that will secure coverage. 

As you’re brainstorming, consider whether you’d like to focus on state-based content or narrow it down to specific cities. 

Ask yourself if your site offers a service or subject area that could turn into a ranking: 

Example: For a paper company, perhaps that could look like states or cities buying the most birthday cards, or the states most or least likely to use the post office. This could turn into an excellent Google search trends campaign, or a leveraged data ranking using local sources. 

You can also examine consumer surveys which are both interesting and locally applicable.

Example: How are major national trends affecting people in your state? 

Designing a survey and targeting it to a specific part of the country can be a great way to ensure local news coverage. As news conglomerates cut staff and budgets, journalists often don’t have the time to conduct detailed research themselves, so providing a comprehensive data set makes their job easier. 

Local data sources

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. 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 the following 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 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
  • The US government’s open data source with a diverse collection of tools and datasets great for timely topics

Once 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, to help you get the data relevant to local journalists. You can even combine city- and state-level data to give your story an extra boost.

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 outlets like local community newspapers and radio stations in that market.

Local behaviors online

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 as well.

For content on the lighter side, it’s easy to find data locally relevant by identifying digital behaviors for certain states or cities. 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.

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 Google Trends to create local content.

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. After 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 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!

Local surveys

If the data you’re looking for doesn’t exist, you can commission your own survey. 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

We prefer to conduct studies with 1,000 respondents, but sometimes go down to fewer respondents for a niche topic. The reason we typically aim for 1,000 respondents is to hear from a large enough audience to capture the average sentiment.

GIF of woman on phone

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 $8 per hour per participant with an additional 33% service fee.

How to Get Local News Coverage of Your Content

You’ve built your localized content and optimized it to rank in search: but how do you get news coverage for localized content? On some levels, pitching local content is very similar to pitching national or niche content: it all boils down to creating targeted press lists and a pitch that quickly introduces both a story angle and the data to support it from your study. 

Develop local press lists

Think about the data you have in your content piece- are there states or cities in a ranking? Which states are represented in your survey, or who is searching the most on Google for whatever it is you were tracking? These data points should inform your first line of press list creation. 

As you target your cities or states, segment them so each list is just one city or state. Oftentimes local outlets list both individual reporters in press platforms as well as newsroom email addresses; be sure to try both.

Many local newsrooms are part of a broader network of media stations- Audacy, iHeart Radio, Townsquare Media, and even Hearst are all press conglomerates, and their websites often list every station they have. This is a great way to make sure you have a complete list- and to increase the likelihood that your links might syndicate, spreading brand awareness across entire regions.

Write a local pitch

When you’re writing a pitch to catch the eye of local news journalists, it’s important to emphasize the local hook in your content.

In your pitch email subject line, be sure to mention the state or city the journalist or outlet is located in as well as the most interesting thing about it- for instance, in a ranking of states searching the most for bagels, a subject line might look like this: 

[New Data] New Jersey #1 Most Bagel-Crazy State in U.S. 

Any journalist from New Jersey will at least see the immediate relevance of the pitch to them and their audiences and hopefully be compelled to open the pitch and click through to the actual data on your site. 

As for the pitch body itself, it’s again important to center the locally relevant aspects of your content. While national trends can be interesting, local news stations cover news relevant to their specific area. Highlight what you have, as evidenced in this fake pitch:

Sample email

As you can see, there are a few data points specific to New Jersey in the pitch, from its ranking of bagel-craziness to what the most popular type of bagel in the state is. This gives journalists multiple points of entry to create a story and a narrative that centers their audience: the people of the great state of NJ. 

As you construct your pitch, do your best to put yourself in the shoes of a local journalist. What do you think they’d find most interesting? Keeping this perspective and being mindful of the need for brevity in pitches, you’ll be well on your way to securing local coverage for your content and reaping the SEO benefits of a well-executed, locally-themed content campaign. 

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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