Your organization or nonprofit is doing good things. We know it. You know it. Your members know it. Does the rest of the world know it? Probably not. Social media helps spread your message, but the audience can be rather limited there as well, unless you have crazy universal appeal like Skittles or Oreos.
A natural thought for most people is, “Hey! The local news should know about this! There’s nothing but the same bad news on every night, how nice would it be to publish some good local news for a change?”
When I worked at a journalist I heard the same adage over and over: “If it bleeds, it leads.” This is why as soon as you turn on the news at 6 it starts out with a shooting, robbery, or some other horrible news. It’s all about ratings. People tune into the awful stuff. But never fear, there are ways you can maximize your media releases so your stories have a shot of making air or the morning edition.
Think of the Ws- and the water cooler
Journalists take a story and immediately think, “Who, what, where, when, why?” That is the essential information their viewers and readers need. But before the story even gets to that stage, the journalist must consider if the story is even newsworthy. Are people going to talk about it to each other at the water cooler the next day? If the answer is no, then wait for a better story. You’ll get a shot.
Strike while the iron is hot
If your industry is in the news, that’s the time to strike. Find a journalist who covers your “beat.” For example, if you’re a nurses association, wait until there’s buzz about a medical story and find a medical reporter and offer your perspective or something related to what’s going on. It’s a great way to establish yourself as an expert. Don’t overlook citizen journalism. Patch.com and Examiner.com are increasingly valid information sources, and often those local writers are a lot easier to reach than full time journalists.
Short and sweet
Quick tip: “press releases” are a thing of the past. The news is so multimedia now, that “media releases” get to the point and get out. Paragraphs can be too wordy, but if you must, definitely no more than two. Sometimes you don’t even need complete sentences to get the job done if you’re going for bullet points. Give them the story, but spare the minor details. If they want more information, they’ll call.
When I worked in local media, one organization would send a media release without fail every Thursday. It got to be routine that any fax that came through with that letterhead would go right into the trash. It’s sad, but the reality is that the people who gather the stories simply don’t have time to gamble on fully reading every release that comes through. I already said make your stories count, but I’m going to say it again. Make your stories count!
The most important detail
Don’t forget your contact information. Your story won’t go anywhere if they can’t reach you! Links to a website and active social media also add credibility.
Good luck, and don’t lose hope if your stories don’t make it immediately to air. You never know when your story will fit!