This post is part of a short series of posts about How to make use of local PR to get the word out about your community project. If you haven’t read the first 2 posts yet, you might like to go back: I. Introduction – When is PR useful? II. How to shape your story for local media
When you’ve determined that you have a compelling story to tell, how should you go about contacting the media? There are a number of different ways to do this depending upon the amount of time you have to spend and what you want to say.
The document most associated with public relations activities in the press release! However, in many cases a press release isn’t necessary to generate coverage.
A press release is typically used to announce news and includes ‘who, what, where, when, why’. It is a formal document that should include factual statements only and avoiding language that is too promotional. The general rule of a press release is that media typically will only read the headline and the first paragraph to determine interest in the story. Therefore, the first paragraph should include what the news is and why it’s important. The press release should also include a short quote from the founder or head of the initiative and this is an opportunity to use more ’embellished’ language. More tips on how to write a press release can be found here.
Distributing a press release can be done via email or through an online service such as press.ie. While there are different schools of thought on the press release being a dying medium, local Irish media do still request press releases on news announcements.
If you don’t have a specific news item to unveil, a press release isn’t necessary and an informal email will do the same thing, while allowing you more freedom and inject more personality in what you’re saying and how you’re saying it. Your email to media should be tailored to who you’re talking to.
Therefore, it is recommended to do research on the reporter or presenter/radio producer that has been covering similar topics related to your initiative. This allows you to personalise the email based on their past work and emphasize why this is relevant for them and why they and their readers should care.
The email should again be concise and entice the reporter/producer to want to learn more; it is not necessary to put every bit of information in the first correspondence.
By putting a question or action to the reporter or producer in the email can encourage a response for instance, offering a phone call or a meeting to learn more, or offering a conversation with someone who your community group has helped.
If you don’t receive a response, it is acceptable to follow up once via email a few days after you sent the first correspondence. Alternatively you can call the reporter or radio producer directly to discuss allowing you to quickly determine interest and next steps.
To reach a reporter or radio producer via phone, you can call the switchboard available on the site and ask to be put through to the person or radio show that you’ve identified through research as being most appropriate.
An event is another route that is often used to introduce media to a community group, allowing the reporter to be immersed in the initiative, hear from different people associated with the group and get a sense of its personality and mission.
However, this can be challenging as media are constantly working on a deadline and therefore are often hesitant to leave the office. Even if a reporter confirms interest in attending the event, there is no guarantee that they will end up attending given last minute deadlines or obligations. Therefore, an event is not typically recommended if the primary reason for it is to drive media coverage.
Preparing for an interview
Once you have secured an interview, ensure you have your talking points prepared in advance (as detailed in the previous blog post on how to shape your story). For a radio interview in particular, it is important that you keep your responses concise and clear. In most instances, a producer will be happy to provide you with an outline of the questions or topics they’ll be asking on-air. Always ensure to ask how long the radio segment is as well.
Do not interrupt the reporter (or presenter) and if you have another point you wish to call out, make a note of it and revisit it at a later time in the interview.
Do let us know if there’s anything we didn’t cover here and we’ll ensure to include it in the next post which will focus on keeping media interest going.
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Kate Lynch is a communitcations and PR professional and director at Allison+Partners in Dublin.
This post is part of a short series about How to make use of local PR to get the word out about your community project. If you haven’t read the first 2 posts yet, you might like to go back: I. Introduction – When is PR useful? II. How to shape your story for local media