All Media Relations Is Local

“All Politics is Local” is the name of the autobiography of Tip O’Neill, the Cambridge city councilor and superintendent of sewers who went on to serve 34 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, including a decade as Speaker of the House. O’Neill lived by those words, a phrase he used regularly after losing his very first political campaign.

It’s been used in countless contexts since, and it always sticks in my head when it comes to media relations for two reasons. First, with online news outlets, Google news alerts, Feedly and any number of web-based readers, everything becomes local when it hits your iPhone. BioWorld sometimes has more Kendall Square datelines than the Cambridge Chronicle & Tab.

Second, and more importantly, local media have a vested interest in covering local companies for a number of reasons, geography first and foremost.  The interest on the part of business writers at local papers and local television and radio news producers goes beyond phase 2 data and the cost savings to the health care world. They follow commercial real estate, jobs and chambers of commerce.  The same can be said of the hundreds of editorial staff at The Business Journals in about 50 cities. They come with daily email blasts, too.

A strong relationship with these reporters is important to establish early on. Working with local reporters early and often surely will pay dividends down the road. Could be through a crisis or a puff piece. They pay attention, and by “they,” I mean everyone who works at these papers.

Funny story. A high-ranking C-suite member of a biotech company that was in play submitted a change of address to the circulation department. He had several months left on his subscription to the weekly print edition, and rather than have it delivered to his office, he wanted it delivered to his home. The circulation tipped off the biotech beat reporter, and the biotech beat reporter wanted to know when the company was closing its offices and moving to France, Ireland, New Jersey or wherever the new owner was taking all the jobs.

I am biased. I worked for several years in local media as staff writer at The Enterprise of Brockton, Mass., a daily newspaper with a circulation about 50,000. Keep your eyes on the ‘Prise. I was there when the website got launched, but not when Tip O’Neill was in office. I digress.

Local media pay attention. In some cases, local media outlets may not have a reporter who is well versed in biotech and spec pharma jargon, and they’ll need a little hand holding when we explain an adeno-associated virus or messenger RNA technology.

But, ultimately, it’s time well spent in developing the relationship with the writer, building the foundation of your corporate story-telling efforts and reaching multiple stakeholders with your message. After all, depending where they are, all patients are local.