Here’s today’s question: Can you be more successful getting press releases and information into the newspapers around the state?
Short answer: Yes.
Longer answer: In today’s busy, short-staffed newsroom, hundreds of press releases arrive daily by email, print and fax. How you present the information is just as important as the message.
I’ve been asked to offer 5 quick tips that could improve your success rate with newspapers.
(Remember: Editorial staffs work for the reader. Information they use must have reader interest and benefit. While there are several sections of the newspaper – events and business pages and briefs – that feature news about your company or your event, for the most part, news editors look for reader interest. The advertising department can guarantee information about your company or event gets to the reader through the purchase of paid advertising.)
It’s still always about the ‘Who, What, When, Where and Who…
1. “Who” is about remembering your target audience.
While you will always need to get the approval of the executive director and/or board of directors, don’t confuse who signs your check with your target audience. You want the media to use your press release and the general public to read your press release. Both the media and the public care most about the “what.”
To improve your odds of success, focus on the benefit of the information.
- Good — “Homeowners could save more than 25 percent on housing renovations by applying for West Virginia’s new “Fix It Now!” housing program.
- Bad — “The West Virginia Example Organization announced today it has opened the application period for the WVEO’s “Fit It Now” initiative.
You certainly want to mention your organization but wait until the second or even third paragraph:
State homeowners could find as much as 25 percent savings on housing renovations by
applying for West Virginia’s new “Fix It Now!” housing program.
The new housing renovation initiative, which includes more than $1 million in grants,
is open to all West Virginia homeowners and specifically targets low income areas,
according to West Virginia Example Organization.
“We hope homeowners will ‘Fix It Now,’” said Don Smith, executive director of the WVEO,
during a press conference Tuesday at the Charleston Civic Center.
Federal and state officials gathered at the Civic Center for the announcement.
2. “What” is about the benefit, not the activity.
As noted in No. 1, your target audiences are the media and the general public Both care most about the benefit. If you’re having a ribbon cutting for the cancer treatment center, the “what” is the cancer center, not the ribbon cutting.
- Good — Thousands of Charleston residents will have easier access to chemo and other life-saving cancer treatments once the doors officially open today at the new $100 million Example Cancer Center.
- Bad — Federal, state and city officials are expected to join with cancer patients today at the Example Cancer Center for a ribbon-cutting to open the new $100 million facility at Example City Hospital.
3. “When” is about the date you distribute the release, not about the date of the event.
Let the media know well in advance of events and send them the press release and photos early. Emailing or calling the day before or the day of an event definitely hurts your chances of good coverage.
4. “Why” is about the local importance of the news.
It’s always about why the locals think there is an important benefit.
It’s nice to quote your executive director, but the media and public would rather read what a local resident, patient or official has to say. If you’re making an announcement and only have quotes and comments from your staff and board, you have failed to prove the local importance.
5. “Where” is about the market you’re trying to reach.
Learn about the media outlets in the market you’re targeting. How many are there? Newspaper, radio and TV?
If the announcement is of local interest with very limited media, you can make a call or even a personal visit to distribute the information in advance. For a larger region, you need an organized effort and more time.
You can also use professional services such as the West Virginia Press Association to help distribute your information.
Always reach out personally to the media most important to your success — local newspapers, radio and possibly TV — but do include regional and statewide media for major announcements.
Extra Tip: If anyone is still mailing or faxing releases, stop it now and move all delivery to email. You save money and the newspaper staff saves time. You can attach a formal press release to your email but always paste the entire message – in plain text – into the body of the mail. Newsrooms can cut-and-paste your information without worrying about having the right program to open the release or other formatting issues.