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Technical
Getting Publicity

Liz Williams is involved in enticing the media to cover events. Here she gives some pointers on how to get the attention of the media.

Having decided goals and objectives, and selected the media you want to use, then you need to grab their attention. In the case of the printed word this is usually by press release.

There is a knack to press release writing, but it is straightforward, and there are certain conventions that apply.

Style and Length

Firstly, press releases are typed, in double line spacing, on one side of the page only. The Club's headed paper should be used as this will immediately help to identify the story. You can, if you wish, type News Release or Press Release at the top although this is not essential as it should be pretty obvious what it is.

Many textbooks state that a press release should be one page only. I don't actually subscribe to this. Most of mine are three or four pages long. Newspapers, particularly local ones, are looking for good, well written copy. The more you provide the more they are likely to use. If they don't have much space then your release will be edited down, but if they have the space, then they will use it.

Most local papers are edited by one man and his dog, with a cub reporter if he's really, really lucky. If you provide a well-written concise press release in style that newspaper uses, then you're on to a winner. The less work the editor needs to do to knock your release into shape then the more likely he is to use it.

That said, do not confuse length with the opportunity to say what you like. Waffle and rubbish will be confined to the bin, no matter how desperate they are.

Content

We all learned at school, college and University that essays are written with a beginning, a middle and an end. Press releases are written with an end, a middle and a beginning.

This is because its the way newspapers lay out their stories. The first paragraph tells you what the story is. For example, look at the following from a local paper:

"Angry ex-miners and the widows of former pitmen from South Wales are to lobby Parliament next week over delays in the payment of compensation for crippling chest diseases."

"Plans for a massive £500m theme park in South Wales have been slammed by local officials."

"In one of the few league matches that survived the heavy rain and driving winds, Llanishen & Llandaff notched up a fine away win." (Hockey Section)

and

"Cwmbran Town were out-thought, out battled, and outplayed in this FAW Premier Cup Group C derby match." (Football Section)

The first sentence says what is happening and what the story is about. If you should ever want to speed-read a newspaper (I often need to), then read only the first paragraph of each of the stories and it will give you a clear idea of the coverage of the paper. Many of us do that anyway. We read the first paragraph and if we are not interested, go no further and read another story.

The essence of telling a story in the press is to say what it is about first. It can be looked at another way. If I met you knowing that you had just been to see at match at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships I wouldn't ask about the weather - it would be; "Which game did you see?", immediately followed by "Who won?".

Croquet reporting is no different. Say what the story is about in the first sentence, which is usually the first paragraph as well, but more on that later.

What to include

Kipling wrote:

I had six honest serving men,
They taught me all I knew,
Their names were What and Where and When
And How and Why and Who.

Keep this at your side when you are writing a release and you won't go too far wrong.

The newspaper wants to know:

What happened or is going to happen?
Where? (location)
When? (date and time here)
How?
Why?
Who is involved?

It may well be that not all of these apply, but most of them will, and they must be answered in the press release.

Of particular importance is the first paragraph. The editor relies on that to tell him what's going on. There is penchant, certainly in the UK, to write articles about Croquet tournaments beginning with a report on the weather, even when it has no relevance whatsoever. If I didn't know that the Croquet Gazette was about croquet, I'd think I was reading Weather Watchers Weekly.

Busy, hard pressed local news editors won't bother read further if the release is too waffly, and simply chuck the release away.

More on press releases to follow.

Liz Williams

2 Nov 1998

Author: Liz Williams
All rights reserved © 1998


Updated 28.i.16
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