Media coverage will be important in celebrating your successes and maintaining the project profile. This section deals with how to engage the press and ensure your project is known far and wide.
How to write effective press releases
It is vital to communicate effectively in a style, format and language that are going to make a journalist sit up and take notice.
The first question to ask yourself is “what’s the story?”. Is what you’re saying really news? The journalist is looking for something concrete, new and different. If you have an event to publicise or a report to launch this is easy, but often a good story can be created out of very little. If you have something you’d like the world to know, try phrasing it as an ‘announcement’. Words such as ‘today’, ‘now’, ‘this week’, etc. give your statements immediacy and make them newsworthy in themselves.
- Keep it simple: Try to keep the language you use simple and clear, avoiding terminology and jargon.
- Keep it up front: Journalists are interested in facts and your first paragraph must answer the questions what? where? when? and who? A good title can help, but avoid the temptation of writing your own headline. If the release is destined for a local newspaper, it’s a good idea to include a local place name in the title.
- Keep it short: Ideally, your press release should be no longer than a single side of A4 – certainly no more than two pages long. If you need to go over the page, make sure all the most important facts are contained on page 1 and use page 2 for additional information and notes to editors. If you go over the page put the word ‘more’ at the foot of page 1. If you have an event to publicise, set out clearly in the notes to editors exactly what will be going on and who will be there.
- Who’s it for: Always bear in mind that different types of media will be interested in different aspects of a story and it may be worth sending out several different versions of your press release. Local media will be most interested in the human interest angle to any story.
- Putting quotes in your press release, from a local resident, teacher or the manager of a company is an excellent way of communicating this. VIPs or celebrity guests will certainly grab their attention. If there is a strong visual angle to your story, for example the unveiling of a new sculpture or mural, it may also be worth sending a specific ‘photo call notice’ addressed directly to the picture editor.
- Numbers count: Journalists love figures almost as much as facts. If you can include numbers or statistics, your press release immediately becomes more authoritative. An even better idea is to give some sort of comparison that is more meaningful and striking to the lay-audience. For example, how many football pitches is that area of land equal to? If the rubbish cleared from the stream were laid end-to-end, how far would it stretch?
- Be Available: Always make sure there is a named contact at the bottom of your press release who is actually going to be available in the days after the press release has gone out or before the event is to take place.an additional mobile or ;out of hours’ contact number is also useful.
A photo call notice does not replace a press release but contains a specific invitation to photographers and film crews to attend the event. The notice should contain a paragraph of explanation (similar to the first paragraph in the press release) and then the following information:
- Who will be there (in big letters if it’s somebody famous or important);
- What they will be doing;
- Where they will be doing it (including directions);
- When you want the photographer to attend.
Photographers will be interested in getting a good picture, so make sure something is happening. If you’ve invited a celebrity or VIP to attend the photo call, try and plan in advance something they could be doing.
On the day, make yourself known to the photographer as well, to make sure you get the pictures you want. Make sure you also have your own camera with you.
What to do when
As soon as you know what it is you’re going to be promoting, send a diary notice (a basic outline of what is going to happen when and who is going to be involved) to the Forward Planning desks of the local TV and radio stations. Write at the top of the notice ‘Embargoed until [DATE]’ if it’s important that information about your event isn’t published beforehand.
Two weeks before your event/activity issue a general news release to all local media with full details of what is happening and who is available for interviews and photographs.
One week before your event/activity issue a photo call notice (if appropriate) to all media with a full description of what the photo opportunity consists of and exactly when and where it will be taking place.
Two to three days before the event follow up the press release and photo call notice with a telephone call.
After the event/activity issue a follow-up press release to any media that didn’t cover the event. If you have some good pictures, ring people up and ask them if they can use one.
Photographs, Slides and Video Materials
Consent must be given for the use of all photographs, slides and video material that may later be published:
- By obtaining permission for the duration of the whole project; or
- By making a ‘consent slip’ available for signature at a community event
For children this must be signed by a parent/carer or guardian. If such a person is not available at an event, it is advisable to request a signature from an accompanying adult (grandparent, aunt etc.) and to request a contact for gaining parental consent if necessary in the future.
Adult permission should be sought verbally or in writing, perhaps on an event record sheet. Label photograph/slide set/video to show consent has been given for it to be used in publicity materials at a later date.
Providing information to the Press or Other Agencies
Information should not be passed on about any individual without their permission.
Common examples of where this might happen include:
- Quoting individuals for the purposes of press releases;
- Advising the public of winner’s names and addresses for prizes;
- Printing individual’s names with photograph captions;
- Including contact details in studies or reports that are to be circulated externally.
In all cases contact the individuals and get their agreement, in writing.
Go to the next section - Maintaining involvement
Go to the previous section - Maintaining the project profile
Guidance on press releases