Media Appearance: Bike Angel

Think stories, not press releases, if you want media coverage.

As an avid Capital Bikeshare member, I was delighted to talk about their new Bike Angel program on the local CBS affiliate, WUSA9.

Bike Angels earn points for taking bikes from stations that have too many and moving them to stations with too few. Ten points and you receive a free day pass that you can give to a friend; twenty and you receive a one-week extension of your membership.

If you live or work downtown, it’s pretty easy to rack up points, since there are stations that always need bikes. At the start of the program, I was the #1 Angel in DC, a point of pride, but have since slipped way down the leaderboard (I’m JF002).

My braggadocio is what caught the attention of John Henry, a reporter for WUSA9. My name popped up when he searched for mentions of Bike Angel on Twitter.

He asked to interview me and I replied, “You mean on camera?” I prefer to be behind the lens, not in front of it, but will get on TV to talk about bikes. John interviewed me for about 10 ten minutes on a sweltering day at Dupont Circle. He was a one-man operation, with a couple of cameras and a mic.

It was fascinating to see the final result, which aired on the 11 PM broadcast, how he took quotes from me, shots of people on bikes, and his narration to tell a story. It’s a quality piece of video and a very positive representation of biking in the city.

The other lesson I took from this experience: reporters want to find their own stories. I’ve worked in places that pump out press releases and then wonder why no one picks them up. It’s because a press release is not a story.

Capital Bikeshare announcing a new service is not a story. Local man inspired to move bikes around for points – that’s a story. My goal of being the #1 Bike Angel in DC provides a focus for viewers, someone they can identify with (or not). Rather than dryly describing how the Bike Angel program works, we see it through my eyes, with the built-in tension of, “Will Joe become the #1 Bike Angel in DC?” (No, he will not.)

In a city like Washington, reporters are inundated with press releases. The organizations that issue them wonder why media organizations don’t run them verbatim.

It’s because most press releases are dry recitations of fact. Instead, find a human that readers can identify with and tell their story to communicate your message.

Author: Joe Flood

Joe Flood is the author of The Swamp, a funny new novel that mocks the city America has come to hate.

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