Posted on: September 24, 2014
So, you’ve got news. And, you’d like the media to tell the masses. But, your news releases often don’t lead to media coverage.
Here are a few tips, gleaned from more than a decade of copywriting and media pitching, to help turn news of any kind into the news coverage you’re seeking.
1. Make sure you are truly sharing news
So what? Old news. Who cares?
Three phrases you never want entering the mind of someone reading your news release. A two-paragraph release about the opening of a pizza shop will not pass the “So what?” test. If the same release focuses on a charitable donation program the pizza shop owner is starting for needy families, with a goal to reach 500 people in the first year; well, that’s newsworthy.
I once heard a newspaper editor say that news releases either contain news, or they are ads. An editor – for any media – isn’t going to spend a second considering coverage of something that is not newsworthy.
Find something truly unique, unusual, inspirational or topical about the news you want to share, and make that the focus of your release.
2. Explain how people or a place are impacted
News outlets are seeking to cover stories that resonate with their audience. A release about a new program that benefits children should explain exactly how the program will improve the lives of children and give an example of an individual who has been impacted.
That child or the child’s family is who the media will want to talk to, and who will make the biggest impression on the media audience. Include the details of how individuals or a community are impacted by your news, instead of simply rattling off statistics or filling your release with useless fluff.
3. Get them with the headline
Do not underestimate the power of a headline. It is your first opportunity to let the reader know that what you are sharing is worth looking at. “Community Theater Announcement” is the type of headline that would encourage most editors to take an early lunch break.
“$50K Grant to Improve Augusta Theater Productions” explains the size of the grant, the location, and the intended use. And, it doesn’t create questions like the first headline does. If your company or organization has authored a report or conducted a survey, start a headline with “Report:” or “Survey:” followed by an interesting fact or statistic.
Rule of thumb: If you haven’t rewritten your headline at least three times, it probably could be better. Be brief, but provide the basic details of your news.
4. Know and use Associated Press style
It’s not as fun as Gangnam style, or as hip as the latest hipster style, but being able to write a news release in Associated Press (AP) style is something every newspaper editor appreciates. Never heard of AP style? No fear.
The physical and online AP Stylebook is your guide to writing a release with the same grammar, punctuation and word usage that journalists use in their stories. Being able to write in AP style will save an editor or reporter from having to fix errors in your release, and will make your release stand out from the dozens of releases they receive every day.
5. Show the news; don’t just say it
What makes you remember a news story? The great writing or editing? Not likely (sorry writer and editors). Photos and video stick in our memory. If you are sending a release about a young girl who is gathering teddy bears to give to sick children at her local hospital, a photo of the girl with all her bears will entice the media to do a story and share that same visual with their audience.
Show your news instead of just explaining it with words. A great photo that illustrates your news can quickly pique the interest of a newspaper or TV station. Photo slide shows are now common on newspaper and TV websites, and many newspaper photographers also shoot video when covering a story. If you have great news, show it with a photo or video.
6. Tell the media how to reach people
If you’ve given good details about specific people impacted by your news (see #2), you also need to provide contact information for those people so a reporter can get in touch with them.
Provide names and phone numbers of people the media can contact at the top or bottom of a news release. And, make sure those people know they may be contacted by media before the release is sent. Providing this information will save a reporter from having to call and ask for someone to talk to, and it covers an important step in creating a story.
7. Follow up immediately
A newspaper business editor recently told me that she receives about 200 emails every day. Waiting 24 hours to follow up about a release sent to her means that a crowd of other releases, pitches and follow-up emails have already been sent to her, not to mention information she has gathered from phone calls and meetings.
Keep your release top of mind and near the top of the inbox by making a follow-up call to media contacts right after sending a release. Tell them the email subject line/headline, reiterate the most important details of your news, and tell them who is ready to be interviewed for a story.
Incorporate some of these tactics to make your news stand out from the crowd, get more coverage and help make a reporter or editor’s job a little easier.