You have a dynamic new preacher coming and you want to invite your entire community to the event. But you don't know how to approach your neighborhood newspaper. Or, you know your community health fair would be of interest to television news viewers-but the thought of contacting the TV station is a little unnerving. What should you do?
- Get the Scoop: First, make a list of media outlets in your community. If you live in a small town you may have a weekly newspaper. A large city may have a dozen daily papers, radio stations, and TV channels competing for your attention. Next, decide who you're trying to reach. Other church people? All the unchurched folks in your neighborhood? Find out the demographics, or the audience marketing research, for whatever media you're interested in. Go on-line, if you can. That will tell you who's reading, watching, or listening-essential knowledge for choosing where to send your information.
- Meet Their Needs: Don't worry about whether or not journalists have any interest in church events-remember they are most interested in news, whatever the subject. The key is providing them with something new, something educational, or something entertaining. Keep in mind, too, that print and broadcast journalists are interested in different types of news. TV news needs something that can convey information visually, such as an interview or an event to videotape. Print news outlets like something to photograph but it's not essential. Newspaper stories can go a little deeper than TV.
- Just the Facts, Ma'am: If you can't put your idea into fewer than 30 words, keep whittling away until you get to the essence. Reporters must think and move quickly-for readers who think and move quickly. Don't assume insider knowledge. Eliminate all jargon. Who, what, where, when, why, and then end the piece.
- The Medium is the Message: Learn how to write a news release. Find out how each outlet prefers to receive information: by fax, phone or E-mail (E-mail is the most popular these days). Don't bother newspeople with follow-up phone calls unless it is essential.
- Remember Journalists Are People Too: Build relationships. If you're straightforward and helpful when reporters call, they may call again. If you send a note to your newspaper's editors praising them on a recent story, they may notice your news release among the hundreds that arrive daily.
- A Final Word: Remember that you are competing with many others who want a reporter's attention. Be patient, polite and persistent.
Anita Palmer is a freelance journalist based in California.