Sunday, December 11, 2011

You want publicity? Here's some advice

Having been inside the belly of the whale called journalism, plenty of people ask me how they can get publicity for their churches, theater companies, businesses, etc.

It can be done. The thing to remember is that a news editor is actually looking for stories. The same is true for bloggers. Coal needs to be shoveled into the furnace all the time for the Titanic to keep steaming toward the iceberg.

It all comes down to writing an effective press release. I've seen plenty, most of them pretty bad. If you want your story printed, there are a few things you can do. This applies to e-mail or snail mail.

Contact information:
Put your name, title and phone number at the top, so that the reporter or editor knows who to call.

Headline: Why should the reader be interested? It may be the most interesting thing in the world to you, but people (and editors are people, my friend) have lots of things competing for their attention. What makes you so newsworthy?

Copy: Spell out the who, what, when, where and why. Make it read as much like a news story as possible. Quote members of your organization, but do not quote yourself (big turn-off). Keep it short and simple. One page is better than two.

Avoid these phrases:

First Annual. If you're back for an encore you can say "second annual," but no self-respecting editor is going to allow "first annual" into print, and you're going to get demerits for using it.

Proudly Presents. As opposed to what, "reluctantly presents" or "half-heartedly presents"?

Breakthrough, Unique, State of the Art, etc. Let the editor be the judge of how epic your news is.

Don't be bashful about sending your news to me. Even if it's only a couple of sentences, I will give it my attention and if I think it's worth readers' attention you'll see it here. If you write long, don't be hurt if your golden prose gets reduced to three or four paragraphs. Most people read only three or four paragraphs before they move on. I suspect many already have with this piece.

One last thing. If you want your press release to look really old school and impressive, at the bottom of the last page use this: