By Helen Dunn Frame
November, 2007, 15:10
Recently, I agreed to be the Publicity Chairperson for the Women's Club of Costa Rica. As I set up my mailing list and wrote the first press release, it occurred to me that volunteering for a position in a club that I belong to is one way to establish a professional relationship with local press. It provides a foot in the door when I need to market personal creations.
Let's begin with the basics. If you have never written a press release, here's a simple format to follow. At the top of the page, insert this information flush left:
Subject: (month) meeting of (name of organization)
Contact: Your name, phone #, email, physical address
Date: mm/dd/yy the release is written
Create a catchy headline using an active verb, and center it on the page. For example:
Group Tenders Passports to Visit Museum
Begin your main content flush left with a sentence like:
The (name of organization) will meet at the (location) at (address) at (time) on the (date).
Next, add details. For example:
All attendees must provide the numbers of their passports in advance and show them to security at the museum's gate. Due to the facility's size, only two groups of 30 each will receive a guided tour of the museum and synagogue. Afterwards, refreshments will be served in the Museum Café.
Provide information about cost, if any, and where tickets, if necessary, may be purchased. Note any additional pertinent data here ending with, "For more details about the event, and reservations, call (telephone #)."
Notice that in the first paragraph you have answered the questions of Who, What, Where, When, and How. Your release can be longer if required but it is best to keep it to one page if possible – two at the very most. These days the name of the person whose telephone number you provide for contact about a meeting is omitted for security reasons.
All put together, the release might look something like this:
Subject: March meeting of Poplar Foundation
Contact: Maggie May, 123-456-7789, email@example.com, 547 Road Ave., #3, Billingsly, NJ, 55420
Group Tenders Passports to Visit Museum
The Poplar Foundation will meet at the History Museum at 21 Jump St. at noon on the March 10, 2006.
All attendees must provide the numbers of their passports in advance and show them to security at the museum's gate. Due to the facility's size, only two groups of 30 each will receive a guided tour of the museum. Afterwards, refreshments will be served in the Museum Café.
Entry is free with your RSVP by March 01, 2006 to Maggie May. For more details about the event, and reservations, call 123-456-7789.
It's important to target the right media outlet. Firstly, select those outlets that will reach your audience. You'll lose credibility if you send a news release to the wrong media, or the wrong person on the staff. Time is short for reporters and they will resent your wasting their time. You can't begin to fathom how many pleas for coverage are received. Sometimes, as touts Dallas, Texas TV reporter Jeff Crilley, author of Free Publicity, it is better to use another contact method, such as a phone call, to achieve the coveted coverage. However, in the case of club meetings, written news releases still seem to work.
Next, be sure to find out who receives information about meetings at each newspaper, magazine, and radio or TV station. Create an email group or several groups, if needed, in your email account for ease in sending repeated notices. You can eliminate a contact from receiving a given release – if for some reason that person shouldn't be included in your mailing – by deleting the address in the To field. It's a good idea to send the email to yourself, perhaps using an unidentifiable address, and use the blind carbon copy (bcc) function for the address list.
As you establish your lists and begin calling publications, be sure you are familiar with their work. If you are targeting a specific columnist, for example, mention a recent column and compliment it before explaining your reason for your call. Write out a list of questions so you don't miss one, necessitating a callback. It's a good idea to ask the person, "Is this a good time to ask you a couple of questions so I'll only send you pertinent information?"
Be familiar with the deadlines. In order to receive any publicity, the target publication needs to have your information in hand in order to meet their publishing deadline. This means you send out the release to a magazine or weekly publication one month in advance. Daily papers may need only a few days unless it's a special section you're targeting that requires more notice.
Once you have done all this, it becomes a matter of routine to send out news releases. Recently, I sent one translated into Spanish that netted an email from a reporter who wanted to bring a photographer to the next meeting. Another contact surprisingly acknowledged receipt of the release. Stories are worth far more than an ad or a listing in an events section. Hone your approach and you, too, may achieve responses and great publicity. Using this experience to market your book will be discussed in another column.
Helen Dunn Frame. A Syracuse University journalism school graduate, published in major newspapers, magazines and trade publications in the United States, England, and Germany. Her writing skills and love of travel led her to write her mystery novel Greek Ghosts. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web site: http://www.helendunnframe.com