by Lisa Petty
When it comes to getting media attention, there is a hard truth you simply have to accept: most media types don't really care about helping you. What reporters care about is presenting a really good story with a
clever angle that will interest a wide audience. Reporters want news. They want you to make their jobs easier.
Let's say your goal is to promote a speaking engagement at your store. You want people to come listen to Ms. Knowsherstuff, because then they'll buy her book and maybe some products and you'll have a lifelong customer. Good for you! Not an exciting news story. But you can capture a reporter's interest if you do most of their work for them. Many reporters and writers have such tight deadlines, they'll use a well-written press release verbatim – sometimes without contacting the sender for more information.
We're going to assume Ms. Knowsherstuff just wrote a gluten-free cookbook, and she's going to do a baking demonstration in your store. That's mildly interesting news. You can make it more interesting by telling the reporter how much of his audience cares about this. Include statistics on gluten intolerance and Celiac disease. Write a paragraph about what it is; how it causes damage; what are the long-term implications to health. Ah, now the reporter sees the value of your event.
Then make it irresistible. Link the event to the larger community with a charitable angle. Use the event to support your favourite charity, or one more specifically related to your event – in this case a local Celiac group. Or entice the reporter's audience with a freebie: free gluten-free refreshments or a free copy of the book. Heck, now the reporter may even show up to cover the event, too!
You'll become a reporter's friend if your release is short, sweet and on point. Aim to keep your press release to one page or you risk being tossed in the circular file or deleted from email.
Press releases always have the uppercase words FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE on the top; usually left justified or centred. Contact info, including optional logo, appears at the top right. Your press release should start with an attention-grabbing headline. For this event, for example, you could write: Ms. Knowsherstuff visits The Vitamin Cabinet in support of Healthy Breakfasts for Kids.
Text starts with the city location and date. Next, tell me what you're going to tell me. This is no different than Grade 11 English class. You have about 10 seconds to capture a reporter's interest, so give it all you've got. Start with the details of the event: who, what, when and where (store name only) as well as any charity link or enticement. Then give the why: this is where you tell the reporter how many readers would care about the event. In this case, you'd plop in your gluten intolerance info.
Talk about the actual event. Discuss Ms. Knowsherstuff's biography including the name and details of her new cookbook.
Write a few sentences about your chosen charity initiative, and how attendees will be helping. Include contact info for the charity in case the reporter wants to flesh out his story. If you don't have a charity association and are instead giving the book away for free or some other enticement, include it here.
Finally, a chance to talk about your business! Include a few sentences about your store or location. Include your address; how long have you been in business; what your company vision is. To indicate your press release is finished, center ### or -30- at the bottom of the page.
While some reporters will use your press release to write their story, others are more diligent and may look you up on the internet, or decide to give you a call after all. Don't give them an excuse to drop your story by posting errors in the press release. Double-check phone numbers and URLs. And make sure your website is finished, especially the area pertaining to your press release. •