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In Print: Maximizing Coverage
in Community Newspapers

Lynn Fenske

As a publicist, I've established a pretty good track record for getting local events featured in community newspapers. People often ask me, how do you do it? To answer that question, here (once again) is my best advice-

When it comes to getting news coverage in community newspapers, presentation is paramount. The newspaper's editor(s) need all the help they can get since staff members are always pushed to the limit. Even when student interns are available to help out, there is never enough manpower or time to follow up on every story lead or to attend every special event. So to maximize your profile and get your story or event covered, submit what the editors want, when they want it.

Here's how:

  • Be accurate in content and delivery. Submit your information to the appropriate person listed on the newspaper's masthead or in an up-to-date media directory (like Media Names & Numbers).
  • Always submit information in the proper format of a news release or advisory. To do so, consult an appropriate "How-to" book, view press releases online (www.sources.com, www.newswire.ca or www.cp.org) or hire a professional PR writer. (The results garnered by a professionally written press release are well worth the expense.)
  • Answer all the key questions of who, what, when, where, why and how - briefly.
  • Submit your press release or advisory via both E-mail and fax. Follow up by telephone if you can. Never mail press releases, you can easily miss deadlines this way.
  • Every community newspaper publishes instructions on where to submit information. Follow them, particularly when it comes to calendar listings for an upcoming event. Event listings are usually directed to an editor working independent of the newsroom. However, provide enough details, written in news release style, and your calendar listing may, at the discretion of the editor, become a nice "filler" article.
  • Honour the geographical boundaries of the newspaper. Remember, they are serving a specific community. Anything taking place beyond their "territory" will not receive coverage.
  • Be aware of schedules and deadlines. Some community newspapers are published two or three times a week, others monthly. For calendar listings, get the information in as early as possible - up to four weeks in advance of your event. Calendar space is limited and often assigned on a first come, first served basis.
  • Always convey any opportunities that exist for taking photographs and be specific about the time and location. Photographers are usually assigned to cover several events in one day. If you do not specify the scheduled time for a presentation, ribbon cutting ceremony or the presence of a local celebrity, etc. then the photographer may inadvertently arrive too late.
  • Maintain a positive attitude and be trustworthy, accurate and timely in your delivery of information. In other words, be someone the editors can look forward to working with and can depend on.
  • Be sensitive to the pressures and deadlines of newspaper publishing. Don't make demands on the editors. They have enough pressure to deal with, often being responsible for several editions per week.
  • Establish a good working relationship with editors. They rely on people like you to help them stay informed of all that is happening in the community.

Now go get those headlines.


Lynn Fenske is a freelance PR writer and editor of the Sources Hotlink newsletter. She can be reached at (416) 232-0652.

For lists of Canadian community newspapers and other media (online/as a database/in print) see:
Media Names & Numbers or Sources databases and mailing lists.

This article originally appeared in The Sources HotLink, published by Sources and available online at www.hotlink.ca.

 

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