1. Your press release should include the 5 W's (and one H) - Who, what, when, where, why and how. This will make it easy for the press to follow and more likely that they will cover your event. It is best to keep these short and to the point.
2. Provide a few details to entice the press so they know why your topic would be good to cover. But keep your news release short and to the point. They get a lot of releases. If it's too long, they won't read it.
3. Include your contact info and be receptive to calls and emails. Make sure if they contatc you, you respond as quickly as possible. The press work on very tight deadlines.
4. It is important when you set up a press event or organize a press conference that there is something visual for the agency to film or photograph. For radio press, if you can help them find sounds or music that will go with their story, you are more likely to have them cover your event. It is good to attach a photo or two with the Press Release or you can provide a link to photos or a video. If you want TV stations, video is key. If you want print or online press, use photos.
5. Plan your press event around deadlines. Local TV news usually has shows at 6 or 7 am, noon, 6 or 8 pm and 10 or 11 pm. The biggest audiences are for the evening and night news, so plan your event so the reporters have enough time to attend your event, then go back and prepare it for the same day's news. If you want the 6 or 8 o'clock news, plan for your event to be done by 3 pm. If you want the 10 or 11 o'clock news, finish your press event by 7 pm for they have time to work on it. With newspapers, send your news release or announcement in time for their deadlines. Make it easy for them to do their job and you will be more likely to get coverage.
6. Remember as you write your Press Release, the media has a job to do. They want a story with news value. Things are news because they:
- Are shocking, unsual, exciting or surprising
- Have a local tie to your area (whether school or organization-level to town, state, region or country, this applies)
- Are relevent to a bigger topic or issue
- Reveal a secret or controversy
- Sex, violence, intrigue and crime are alwas attention grabbers
7. Add a news hook including one of the news items above. It's important to understand that your press release has a news hook. (Just like fishing, a news hook "catches" people's attention so you can draw them in.) Just because you send a news release, the media will not automatically attend your function or want to cover it. You must give them a reason. They exist to write news that catches people's attention so their organization can sell advertisements and make money. If your event does not sound interesting, they won't cover it. To help yourself, you must help them.
8. When you write your news release, ask yourself:
- Why would this interest the general public?
- Why would this interest a journalist or news editor?
Why would this interest your target audience?
9. If it's not interesting, think of how you are presenting the information. How can you MAKE it interesting. Often, you can give something a human angle to add a news hook. (Just like fishing, a news hook "catches" people's attention so you can draw them in.) Just because you're opening a new store doesn't make it interesting. If you are going to have a local celebrity or person of interest attend could be a news hook. If you are going to give away free items, it could be interesting (Giving things away FREE is always a good news hook). Announcing that people will do something weird, shocking, tantalizing or out of the ordinary is a good one, especially if it will be a VISUAL display that will look good on camera.
10. Be persistent and follow up. If you don't hear from them, call and email the news or feature editor. Ask if they received your release and if you can offer them any more information. If they don't attend or are not interested, try again with another event. Be persistent and eventually you will find the right news hook to get your organization coverage.
11. For your press release, build a list with the emails of reporters and assignment editors. You should also copy down the phone numbers and names of the organization the reporters represent. You can find these emails by calling the media outlet, by looking on their website or (for newspapers) looking in the publication itself. Remember to look for contacts at local TV stations, newspapers, free print publications, online publications, radio stations, college ororganization newspapers (if it applies to them), and trade magazines or websites that might be interested in covering your event. Keep an email list so you can easily copy it and re-use it next time you need to advertise a press opportunity. Update it once a year.
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