Pressing for Press
A serious attempt to get press coverage can be a campaign in itself.
If you really want it, go after it methodically and shamelessly.
Get them to read it!
A thousand press releases a week cross the news director’s desk.
What’s going to keep yours out of the dead file? Stick green Green
Party circle stickers on the envelopes. Attach a poster (&8220;...we
borrow the earth from our children”) Gimmicks? Attention getters!
Get it to the right person
Attention is useless unless there are sympathetic eyes to see you.
Find some. Know your local media — who covers your issues? Read
the papers, watch TV news and listen to radio for a month with this
in mind. Address material to those folks personally, as well as
sending everything to News Directors (radio, TV), and Assignment
Make your communications clean and professional. Always include
a knowledgeable contact who can be reached by phone day or evening.
Make it easy for them to find you. Arrange for your press release
to arrive about a week in advance — then follow up with a phone
Did you get the material?
If not, would you like it — we’ll hand deliver. Can I give you
any additional information? Will you be able to cover the event?
Make the content hook them!
All you efforts are likely to fail if your material isn’t press
worthy. Create a catchy slogan (headline material).
eg. THE DON: RIVER OR SEWER?
Be as controversial, as outrageous, as you dare. Controversy attacts
attention. The media thrives on it. Write your press releases so
they could be short, catchy articles themselves.
Get backing from acknowledged or credentialled expert. Quote your
experts, but go for lively controversial material. Have them available
Create a scoop
Provide NEW information. The press is always looking for a scoop.
Garbage recycles well, news doesn’t. But make it short and snappy.
Build in advance
An advance press conference is a good idea, but make sure you have
something worthwhile to present — a scoop, a controversy, new information
(refreshments don’t hurt). The press conference for our Don River
Walk (featuring a toast of the clean headwater’s water), resulted
in advance publicity: two radio interviews done on the spot and
an article in the Toronto Star.
After all this great advance publicity, don’t let event be a disappointment.
It should be excitingly visual, provide new information (it’s the
climax of all the work you’ve done). Again the press is looking
for a scoop — something to get the audience’s attention — to show
on TV, to describe on the radio or in print.
Do it during the week, during working hours. Unless you’re a war
or an earthquake, you probably won’t rate overtime.
Have an articulate spokesperson assigned to deal only with the press.
If it can be your press release contact, all the better. Keep your
interviews short (unless they specify a certain length of time).
Be prepared with what you want to get across. Be well–organized
and compact. Include Green statements that can become headlines
or extra lines (wrap ups).
eg. “Think globally, act locally”
Remember, no matter how important your statement, it’ll probably
get edited out if it’s the least bit draggy.
The alternative to all this work
On the other hand, if you create a dynamic, outrageous, controversial
enough event — just send out one decent press release and watch
everyone come running. You’ve just achieved earthquake status!
Reprinted from The Greenhouse, the Ontario Green Newsletter, clo
Dan Freeman, 365 Dalesford Rd., Toronto, Ontario M8Y 1H1.
Published in the Connexions Digest, Volume 11, #2, Winter 1988.