In a prior post I talked about what to do when the media reaches out to you. There may be some instances when you want to bring the media to you to promote your events in your community. A press release is a great way to reach out to a lot of different types of media at the same time. Press releases have a standard format and set of guidelines that you will need to use to make sure that your story gets picked up. This week’s post covers those basics and includes a handy template!
Bring the Media To You
You are the face of your university in your community so let them know about the good things that you are doing in its name! If you’ve built some relationships with the media, contact them when you have an interesting story or event that may be newsworthy. You can also find reporter’s information through their news outlet’s website or the reporter’s own social media.
Press release writing is also a skill may you want to brush up on so you can notify many members of the media about your club’s good deeds.
Get the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How
Before you start typing, I recommend gathering the details of your news item. You’ll want to make sure the press’ basic questions can be answered by just what they have here. Why? Because the journalist may not reach out for more details. He or she may simply use what you’ve provided for their story. Always include facts, names and details. Leave opinions and flowery prose out.
Put the Content in the Correct Press Release Format
Press releases have a format and you’ll want to follow that format closely. The press release format has some basic sections. Those sections are described below:
- Contact Information – include name, title and all the ways that this person can be reached. This should always appear in the upper left hand corner.
- For Immediate Release – bold font in the upper right hand corner.
- Headline – make sure you have a catchy headline for your event. Not too long. Headline should be in bold font. You can include a sub-title as well.
- First paragraph – this paragraph must contain the most important information. This may be the only paragraph they read so make sure to get all the basic facts into his paragraph.
- Second (and third) paragraphs – include additional details here. You may even want to include some quotes from club leaders or alumni for a little “flavor.” I wouldn’t go over 3 paragraphs of content. You’ll want to keep the total press release to just 1 page.
- Boilerplate info – this should be a stock description blurb about your club. Keep it simple and informative. You can keep this in your template for future press releases.
- Contact info (again) – this time you’re letting the reader know how they can reach you for more information.
- Social media info – make sure to include your social media information so the reader can get more information about you or, better yet, give you a mention if they post something about your event!
Preparing the Document to Send
Have a friend proofread the press release to make sure the content is clear and the basics are included. Then spell check, spell check, spell check!
If you are going to send the press release as an email, I recommend copying and pasting the content into the body of the email. Why make a busy reporter have to open a file?
If you are planning on distributing it by another means – posting it on your website, for example – save it as a PDF. This will make it easy to send and universally easy to share and open. This will also ensure that the document won’t be modified and distributed without your knowledge.
Gather Media Contact Information
Nowadays local reporters have their email addresses and social media posted on their media outlet’s website. It’s easy to build a media list with just a little bit of research. Depending on the kind of item in your press release, go to free and paid newspapers, radio station and TV station sites to get emails.
As always, reach out to your university to see if they can find any alumni on staff at any of your local media. This can be an easy to reach a friendly audience with your story.
If you have an email tool (like Gmail, MailChimp or Constant Contact), you can create media email lists there and easily send your press releases that way.
Occasionally, you may find that you have to fax a press release. There are some free, online fax tools out there that make it easy like . . .
Tips for Sending the Press Release
- Timing – make sure to send it with enough advance notice that a journalist can read it and do something with it but don’t send it too far in advance.
- Email Subject – use the headline of your press release as the subject line of your email
- Customize the emails if you can – use the name of the reporter in the email if the press release will go to a known reporter and if possible, customize the content to speak to his or her interests.
- Follow up with a phone call – many times, news outlets will have a generic inbox where press release are sent (email@example.com, for example). Taking a few minutes to follow-up with a phone call will ensure that someone knows about your event and where they can find more information.
I can’t guarantee that every press release will land successfully on someone’s desk but I can tell you that if you follow the standard format and make it interesting, your content will be easily picked up by any reporter looking to cover a little local news!
Do you have questions about how to reach out to the media? Ask me!