The next time you find yourself complaining about the weather, turn it into a publicity opportunity that lands you on the front page of your local newspaper.
The most obvious story ideas are those that piggyback on severe weather like a flood, snowstorm, drought, heat wave, hurricane or tornado. After all, journalists cover the weather 365 days a year. They always need ideas, sources, background, colorful quotes, compelling photos and interesting video -- especially on slow news days.
I worked at a daily newspaper for more than two decades and covered my share of weather stories. Desperate for sources, I can remember grabbing the Yellow Pages and calling one business after another during a snowstorm or flood, hoping that a few of them would have a story to share. Often, I came up empty and had to start calling people at random.
If you know who to call at local media outlets, the kinds of story ideas to pitch, and the little extras they want, they will often welcome your call. Here are some ideas to get you started.
Local TV. Call your local TV stations and ask for the assignment editor. Explain quickly how the weather affects you. Suggest something that will make compelling video.
For example, this summer's unseasonably cold temperatures in the Midwest are the perfect opportunity for the owners of water parks to report how they're coping. They could explain, for instance, that even though the outdoor water slides and other attractions aren't crowded, families are choosing the indoor pools and even the hot tubs. Great visuals!
Don't forget about the meteorologists. During their weather reports, they sometimes have 15 seconds to slip in a short story of how that day's weather affected a local company.
Local newspapers. Call your weekly or daily newspaper and ask for the newsroom. Explain your idea. Try to suggest other sources they can call.
Let's say you own a driving school and you've had to cancel classes because of thick fog. You might offer tips on how to drive in the fog, especially on busy freeways. You can also suggest that the reporter call the local marina to see how boaters are affected. Make the reporter's job as easy as possible.
If they don't have time to cover your story, remember that many newspapers let readers upload their own video and photos to the newspaper's website.
The Weather Channel. You can submit potential story ideas to email@example.com.They don't guarantee coverage but promise that they'll consider your idea. Remember, it's TV, so you'll need a good visual.
"Ride Along with Us." Unusual weather might also be the perfect chance to invite a journalist to ride along with one of your drivers or delivery people. During a heat wave, a reporter might love to join a driver who makes deliveries for an ice company. A flood damage company could offer a TV camera crew a first-hand look at flooded basements -- with the homeowners' permission of course.
Create a tips list. All media love tips lists, usually consisting of about a halfdozen tips on how to solve a weather-related problem. Example: “8 ways to care for parched lawns,” “7 secrets for safer winter driving” or “5 ways to save on air-conditioning costs.”
Offer your own video. You can take excellent video with a smart phone. If a TV newscast uses yours, they'll give you credit. Their camera crews can't be everywhere at once and often use video clips from amateur videographers.
Don't forget Fido. Journalists, especially those who work for TV stations, love reporting on pets. Pet experts can comment on how to care for pets during extreme hot and cold weather.
Products in short supply. If you sell a product that's in demand during bad weather, such as air conditioners during a heat wave, let the media know as soon as the product is in stock. The free publicity could send customers to your door.
Finally, one of the best opportunities for publicity is on the first day of winter, spring, summer or fall. Tie your weather-related business story to one of those four days, and you've increased your chances for coverage.
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