Pressing for Press

Sylvia Wineland

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 Editors (papers).
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 call:
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).
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.

Be legitimate
Get backing from acknowledged or credentialled expert. Quote your experts, but go for lively controversial material. Have them available for interviews.

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.

The event
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.

Be accessible
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.



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