I’ve been on both sides of the press release. I’ve attracted press attention for my active San Francisco church and I have edited the group’s weekly electronic newsletter.
I know what grabs me when I am editing. When I am in PR mode and seeking media attention, I send out pieces that would appeal to my editing side.
Here are 4 Top Tips for Getting Your Story Out
- Make your press release “camera ready” so that
lazypressed-for-for-time editors can cut and paste what you’ve submitted right into their article templates.Top news outlets don’t run prepackaged press releases However! Many news outlets wind up running stories that are changed very little from the original press release.
Grammatically correct stories in paragraph form that lead with Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How stand out. A huge percentage of press releases submitted leave out some part of this basic information!
Write paragraphs. Announcements that are all bullet points grab attention on the bulletin board, but they have to be re-written for most news stories. Your material is more likely to be thrown out than lovingly rewritten by a busy editor.
- Write your announcement like it is news. Don’t just state the facts about what you’re doing like you’re describing a dead fish. Use action verbs and use the headline to tease the editors into wanting to read more.
If the event doesn’t have a natural news hook, create one!When the church wanted to publicize its anti-Iraq war stance it faced a problem: a church against war is not on any assignment editor’s list of hot news stories.
But, the peace activists and ministers created two brilliant hooks. First, they created a Mother’s Day event that focused on the pacifist sentiments of Julia Ward Howe, the creator of Mother’s Day in 1870. Then, they encircled the entire church block in a colorful peace ribbon which made a great visual backdrop.
When the congregation gathered on the church steps to promote peace on Mother’s Day, television and radio and print media outlets were all represented.
- Include pictures in your release. Conventional wisdom says that editors do NOT want photographs and that email systems for many organizations strip out photographs. Maybe.
However, when I wanted coverage for a new minister with five adopted children under 13 years old, I shamelessly embedded a photo of the kids in the press release. Several major news organizations bit on the news release which, if you think of it, could have been dismissed a routine story of a congregation hiring the latest in a series of ministers. The San Francisco Chronicle created a front-page Sunday feature.
- Post a summary box at the top of the page. Include the event title, date and time, press contact name and number, and target publication date. This box will let editors know at a glance what you’re publicizing and how to get more information.
When you are attracting publicity you want to do everything you can to grab the editor’s attention and make your story easy to run. Be a great assistant to that work-worked editor, and you’ll see your story picked up and shared.