Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Nothing New Here. Move Along.

Last night, I found myself popping momentarily through the looking glass.

The city’s tree and beautification committee asked me to write a press release, announcing the honorees for best yard and best garden for the month of August. Easily done, you might surmise – and you’d be right. A few details, a pithy quote, and six paragraphs later, it’s done.

Then I put on my journalist hat when it came to thinking about how to present the information to the paper. Here’s what I came up with. Nothing earth-shattering, but certainly useful to any small group hoping to get attention from the local paper:
  1. Keep it brief. If they want a bigger story (not likely) they’ll do it. The worst thing a press release writer can do is to write the story for the paper – because the good ones won’t use it all, and the bad ones will give it bad play.
  2. Play the Internet card. This story in particular has about two dozen photos to go with it. No way in hell is any paper going to print more than one on a good day, and they’d have to think hard about printing just the one. So offer them everything. Let them pick a photo if they want. But put all the photos in a Facebook album and provide a link to it in your press release. Chances are the paper won’t run any photos at all, but chances are pretty good they’ll include your link in the story. Newspapers are already doing this to some extent with their own websites, but this way you’ve done part of the work for them.
Once again, I must recuse myself from being a journalistic genius. I washed out of the industry in 2005, remember. As much as it hurt at the time, I still maintain it’s one of the best things that could have happened to me. And the timing couldn’t have been better.

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