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9 Helpful Tips When Working with Local Media Outlets

By Corrie Pelc

September 18, 2023

Who doesn’t like free publicity? If you suddenly find your local newspaper or TV station calling your rink, it’s a great opportunity to get noticed in your community. However, there are some things to know when it comes to working with your local media. Here are some top tips on building a great relationship with your local media to help ensure they continue to cover your rink. 

Tip #1: Respond Quickly

Whether it’s a TV, radio, newspaper, or magazine reporter calling your rink, they are all working on a deadline. For that reason, Billy Thompson, owner of Kate’s Skating Rinks in Gastonia and Indian Trail, North Carolina, says anytime local media reaches out, they get back to them immediately. 
“We understand that time sometimes is of the essence when they reach out for stories, so we always try to make sure that we respond as quickly as we can,” he continues. “I try to be the one that responds as the owner when they send inquiries. My management is trained to send any inquiries or phone calls directly to me as well, so the communication is consistent.” 

Tip #2: Give Them What They Want

Ramona Pouncy, co-owner of The Rink in Chicago, Illinois, says it’s important to work through the media contact person to find out exactly what they are looking for.
“If there’s any camera filming that needs to be done, we have to identify what sessions they’re looking for,” she explains. “If they’re looking for adults or they’re just looking to get a JB feel. What kind of excitement are they looking for? Are they looking for more family or more lessons, or just a combination of the two? We usually have a contact person that we work with to coordinate it with myself or my husband, and we just go back and forth, get the dates down, (and) they come in.” 
And Pouncy says to make sure the time they want to film works for both of you. “Say, for instance, if they want to come in early and you don’t have the staff or it’s not working, see if you can come up with a time that works for everyone,” she says. “Try to be as accommodating as possible, and then it will work out.”

Tip #3: Get Noticed Through Social Media

Derek Fitzgerald, owner and operator of Happy Wheel Skate Center in Westbrook, Maine, says social media helped them get noticed by local media as they were building the new location of their rink, which opened in August 2022.
“We kept posting our statuses and our progress of just sneak peeks of when we get to a certain point in the build,” he explains. “Like when we were putting kickboards up on the wall, putting carpet up, we would show certain pieces of it just to try to build the suspense.”

Tip #4: Use Social Media Tags

In addition to posting news and updates on social media, Thompson suggests tagging the local media outlets in social media posts. 
“If we (have) something that we really want to get out there, we’ll try to be proactive and do a social media posting and tag local stations or local reporters that we’ve worked with in the past,” he details. “Most of the time, the news sources would prefer to be tagged on Twitter than Facebook or Instagram, just because that’s what they use it for. So we see more responses with that ... through Twitter.”

Tip #5: Use Press Releases

When one of Thompson’s skaters qualified to skate at the World Championships last summer, he used a press release to get the word out to the local media.
“We sent a press release out noting that there was a skater from the Charlotte area that made the United States World Team and will be traveling on behalf of the United States of America and representing the country down to Argentina this past year,” Thompson says. “And that was great because we were trying to raise funds for him, and they came out and did a story.”
Thompson says they sent it out through their email blasts and posted it heavily on Facebook. “The news anchor that picked it up, she said she saw it on our Facebook page, but we did not tag her in it personally,” he adds. “So obviously (the post) got a lot of traction — that was how she found out about it.”
Thompson shared that they also issued a press release when the skating center celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2011. “We did multiple press releases, and that was picked up by a couple of major affiliates,” he says. “They came out and did stories on my grandparents and stuff of that nature.”


Tip #6: Be a Good Community Member

Fitzgerald says if you want the local media to be attracted to your rink, make sure you’re ingrained in your community. 
“You can’t expect the local media, whether you’re in Atlanta or in a small town in Idaho, to give you good coverage if you aren’t a good community member,” he explains. “If people don’t want to go to your business, they’re not going to come and do a story on you. So you have to be there for your community — serve them. Maybe you do fundraisers for schools in your community, or you give special thanks to the men and women that are protecting and serving your community for police, EMS, and fire. You want to highlight the good in the community that your business does.” 

Tip #7: Be Careful When Announcing Dates

If you are looking for local media to cover something at your rink with an opening date that might fluctuate — such as a rink reopening or the opening of a new attraction — Fitzgerald advises not letting media know the date until the very last minute, which is something he learned when his rink was reopening.
“We just said we’re hoping to be open in this time period, but we never gave them a date because you never know what you’re going to run into,” he explains. “We had a date set out ... and then at the last minute, I had to back it up by two weeks because of some inspections that came through for the city. So I didn’t say anything until I knew that was done, and I was ready to open.” 

Tip #8: Host a Community Event

At The Rink, Pouncy says they were recently approached by a local TV station to be interviewed on camera, but to also host a community skate event with them that offered extra publicity. 
“They came out and interviewed us about The Rink and us being new owners and the renovations that we completed,” Pouncy recalls. “And then they had almost like a takeover —  their anchors came out, their management team came out. They were giving away free giveaways, meeting with the public, talking to them, taking pictures, and just having a great time. We had some news anchors taking some skating lessons, and a lot of the anchors were actually roller skating.”

Tip #9: Don’t Be Afraid to Be On Camera

Thompson says he would encourage rink owners not to be afraid to talk to the media, “I know some people might think, oh, I’m not good in front of a camera,” Thompson says. “We are normal people just like everybody else you see on television. And we have a very good spotlight where there’s not a lot of feel-good stories out there sometimes on the news, and we have the ability to offer. And that’s what I’ve heard from every single newscaster that’s always come in — it’s such a feel-good (story), and then they always talk about how they remember growing up skating.” 


Corrie Pelc

Corrie Pelc is a journalist, editor, and freelance writer with more than 23 year experience. Her byline can be found in a variety of consumer and trade publications, with past and current clients including IAPPA’s Funworld Magazine, Medical News Today, Hometalk.com, PassportHealth.com, INVISION Magazine, and Sacramento News & Review. She can be reached at corrie.pelc@gmail.com.

Photo credit: istockphoto, milanvirijevic

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