This very basic “how to” is designed to get you started navigating the sometimes-tricky waters of media publications. I have listed a 7-step plan to give you a jump start:
1. “Do something interesting or useful.” This is in quotes so you will remember it.
What I mean is, do something interesting or useful that is news worthy. It needs to be something that benefits the reader in some way. It could be an event that is raising money for a cause. Your story could be an accomplishment that an employee or member achieved. You could promote a new class that you are adding and emphasize the benefits either for fitness or fun. Any story that you can give a human angle to is always more sellable. We once had a full story written on a member who lost weight at our club, got really fit and is now walking the Appalachian Trail. Yes, that’s right — the whole trail. He has been gone all summer. We gave him a t-shirt with our logo on it to wear at the very end of the trail and take a picture.
2. When writing your press release, first give the usual data: how, why, what, when and where, and then write as if you are telling a story. Relate the story to the reader’s own experience.
Wrong: “NAC member Chris Odum walks the Appalachian Trail after losing 70 pounds. He was both proud and in some ways surprised, but knew all along he could accomplish this.”
Right: “Did you ever think you could walk to another state? Barring the fact that you actually live on the borderline between two states, you probably didn’t. NAC member Chris Odum didn’t think he could either, until after losing 70 pounds and getting really strong, he decided that walking the Appalachian Trail looked pretty inviting. Yes, the entire Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia!”
3. Make a list of the publications you want to be in. You will find this information online. Be sure to gather all the contact information you need about the editor, the news desk and the reporters on your beat.
4. Target your story to the individual publication. Make sure you know what they like to write about and how long they like the article to be. If you are targeting a local online publication that emphasizes micro-marketing such as www.Patch.com, you may want to keep your story succinct. Other publications, such as print newspapers or even lifestyle magazines, may welcome a more lengthy approach.
5. Send your story via email with an introductory paragraph in the body of the email that is personal and friendly.
6. Follow up with a phone call, gently asking if your email was received and if it had any interest for them. You can then present yourself as the expert contact for this story, or at least the liaison to the expert. That expert may be on your staff and have the scientific information that you lack.
7. If they are not interested in this particular story, you have now created a relationship and it is ok to email them on occasion about other stories.
Just keep at it and you will make a name for yourself and your club before very long. Getting published locally is like making friends at school in some ways. The more you reach out, the more likely it is you will get a response. In any case, remember to listen to their cues about how they like to be approached. Just like a new friend, some dive in full force and others take time to warm up.
Linda Mitchell is the director of marketing, public relations and charitable giving for Newtown Athletic Club in Newtown, Penn. She can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.