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3. Deliver your message.

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It’s time to make the news! Reporters are always looking for topical, original, localized story ideas and will appreciate receiving your information. Package it as a press release, media alert, personal pitch, or a combination of approaches.

Press release

The formal press release, once the primary tool for communicating with the news media, is fast becoming antiquated. They still serve several purposes: as a way to provide news to understaffed media outlets who don’t have the time and resources to research a story; as a fact-filled reference sheet for busy reporters; and as a device to push information you control to social media users.

A well-written press release can help a busy journalist who only has a few minutes to spare to quickly grasp and establish interest in an issue or event.

The smaller the community, the more interested the media will be in covering your news. Daily newspapers will rarely publish information exactly as submitted, but many weekly newspapers and small daily papers still rely on content from press releases for news briefs. In rare cases, your press release could be published verbatim as a feature or news story if it’s well written with a local angle.

Here’s how:

Ensure that your news or feature is of community and social interest. The media is a conduit through which you reach your audience, so write for them, in the style editors can use.

Write objectively, from a reporter’s perspective, in “AP style” (following the rules and grammar for news releases). Never include blatant marketing and sales language. Hyperbole of any kind reduces credibility. Be  clear and concise. The more you use their style, the more likely your story will be picked up.

Tell your story in one page, or maximum of two. A reporter or editor will call you if they want more information.

Start with a strong headline. Summarize the major points of the release and grab the interest of the recipient. A good headline compels the reader to keep reading. Don’t be afraid to be clever, or to use a subhead to support the main headline.

Start the first line with the dateline—the date of issue and the city and state either of your Unit headquarters or location of your event—and continue with a strong lead, the most newsworthy part of your story. Involve readers with the first one or two sentences. If the headline is the hook, than the lead should reel the reader all the way into the story. What do they most want to know? The answer belongs in the first short paragraph. You may explain more in detail later.

 Include the traditional elements of a news story: who, what, when, where, why, and how:

  • Who is the story about and whom does it affect
  • What is happening and why is it newsworthy
  • When is the story occurring? Did it happen already or will it happen in the future?
  • Where is the story taking place? Is it national or local?
  • Why does the story matter? Why should readers care?
  • How does the story affect the community?

Report your story in “inverted pyramid” style. Organize the information so the most important facts appear first, followed by supporting facts in order of importance. (If your story needs to be shortened, editors will cut it from the bottom up.) Generally, state your most important facts in the first paragraph. Provide background information in the second, and use the third for quotes from spokespeople. Bring your story to a close in the fourth. The best releases are the briefest.

Provide numbers and data to allow a reporter to present the facts. Think in terms of how many, and how big; emphasize superlatives: the first, the only, the oldest, the longest, or a significant anniversary.

Quotes from spokespeople bring your story to life and allow you to state an opinion or editorialize your news while remaining objective. Remember to obtain permission from the person you quote.

When possible, find a local angle that ties into a broader social trend. The media is also interested in anything new, milestones, human interest stories, powerful visuals, and community involvement, partnerships and alliances.

Include shareable content; images, videos and links that a journalist or blogger can use. Always accompany an image with a caption and photo credit or copyright notice.

At the top of the page, name a contact (or two) that reporters can call for more information or to arrange an interview. Provide the name(s) of those qualified to answer reporter questions immediately, with their phone numbers and email addresses. It’s critical that contacts remain reachable around the clock after your release is issued.

Also at the top of the page, type “for immediate release” unless a specific future date is necessary. (You will likely never need to embargo, or hold, your news.)

At the end of your press release, type three hash tags (# # #) or the number thirty (–30–). These traditional notations tell the reader that there is no more information.

After the ending notation, add the boilerplate: the official standard description of the organization issuing the release. A short, informative paragraph, the boilerplate may contain marketing language that is forbidden within the body text of a press release. The WBCCI boilerplate is:

 

                                About the Wally Byam Caravan Club International (WBCCI)

                                The Wally Byam Caravan Club International offers fun, fellowship, and adventure for owners of the world’s finest RV, the Airstream.

                                Founded in 1955, the WBCCI has touched the lives of Airstream owners for nearly sixty  years and continues in the spirit of Wally Byam, inventor of the Airstream, who introduced glamour to trailer touring.

                            Dedicated to fostering friendships and a passion for travel through a common interest in the Airstream lifestyle, the WBCCI offers caravans, rallies and activities through more than 122local Units throughout the United States and Canada. Learn more at www.wbcci.org.

 

                You may add an additional boilerplate describing your Region or local Unit.

 

 

EXAMPLE:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:

P.R. Volunteer

000-000-0000

Contact person @ email address

Second P.R. Volunteer

000-000-0000

2nd Contact @ email address

One Hundred Airstream Trailers Convene at Big County Park

Trailer doors open for public tour during Silver Bullet Rally

Anytown, NE (July 20, 2013) — Nearly 100 aluminum Airstream trailers will roll into Anytown on Thursday, August 3, 2013.

The Central States Unit of the Wally Byam Caravan Club International (WBCCI) will convene for four days at Big County Park at 123 Main Street, Anytown for the tenth annual Silver Bullet Rally. The public is invited to tour member’s vintage and new Airstreams on Saturday, August 5, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“We’ve been rallying at Big County Park and have enjoyed being part of the Anytown community for ten years now,” said Unit President Iona Traylor, who tows a restored 1976 Airstream Argosy, outfitted with red, white, and blue fixtures and decor. “As part of the Big Local Classic Car Show, we love to show off our vintage Airstreams!”

One of the trailers featured at the rally is owned by Mabel Vagabond, local artist and world traveler from Nearby Suburb, who will be celebrating her 100th birthday with WBCCI members at her 1963 Airstream Safari.

About the Wally Byam Caravan Club International (WBCCI)

The Wally Byam Caravan Club International offers fun, fellowship, and adventure for owners of the world’s finest RV, the Airstream.

Founded in 1955, the WBCCI has touched the lives of Airstream owners for nearly sixty years and continues in the spirit of Wally Byam, inventor of the Airstream, who introduced glamour to trailer touring.

Dedicated to fostering friendships and a passion for travel through a common interest in the Airstream lifestyle, the WBCCI offers caravans, rallies and activities through the more than 122local Units throughout the United States and Canada. Learn more at www.wbcci.org.

About the Central States Unit

As part of the historic Wally Byam Caravan Club International (WBCCI), the 200-member Central States Unit #046 organizes rallies and caravans throughout the Central Region. We enjoy fun, food and travel with fellow owners of iconic vintage and new Airstreams, the most recognizable and popular travel trailer in the world.

Distributing your press release:

First, use spell check, grammar check, and ask someone else to read it for typos. Errors are very harmful, and raise doubts about the source of the release.

Consult your media list and prepare your release for email to all relevant contacts. Consider distributing it to organizations other than the media outlets on your list—the Chamber of Commerce, visitor bureaus, and friends and family.

Craft the email subject line. Do not use “press release.” Use your headline if it’s an eye-catching grabber, or attract attention with the most exciting newsworthy fact.

Send your release as text within the body of an email, not as an attachment.

 It’s appropriate to add a personal message or irresistible call to action to the reporter at the beginning of your email. Let them know they can interview someone interesting or locally famous, or invite them to witness a wildly visual event will take place at a certain time.

 

Media alert

A media alert (or advisory) differs from a press release. While the basic message may be the same, an alert generally invites members of the media to be present at an event. Like a press release, a media alert includes the “who, what, when, where and why” of your story, but it’s shorter than a release and presents the facts in a bullet-point format.

Provide the angle and details reporters are interested in, and what you’d like them to cover to accomplish your publicity goals.

Email your alert a week or two in advance to the newsdesks at your local TV stations, the photography editors and feature reporters at your local newspapers, and all other relevant contacts on your media list. Send it again on the day before or day of the event; add a personal note if any facts have changed or to encourage attendance.

As with a press release, include the alert in the body of your email (not as an attachment) and introduce it with an attention-getting subject line.

Make follow up calls to select media contacts to gauge their interest, answer questions, and encourage them to attend.

EXAMPLE:

Email subject line: ALERT: Local traveler celebrates 100th birthday at rally with 100 Airstream trailers

                Rick- We’ve added a community open house on Saturday, August 5. Our Airstreams—restored vintage models from the 1960’s to a brand new trailer fresh from the factory—will be open for the public to tour from  10am to                 3pm.

 

                Mabel Vagabond’s birthday party, held at her vintage trailer and surrounded by the other Airstreams on Sunday morning, would be a great story and photo opportunity.

 

                I hope we’ll see you there! - P.R.V. 000-000-0000

 

MEDIA ALERT

What:

100 Airstream trailers will convene at historic Big County Park for the tenth annual Silver Bullet Rally

Who:

Members of the Central States Wally Byam Caravan Club International (WBCCI)

                Mabel Vagabond, local artist and world traveler from Nearby Suburb, will be celebrating her 100th birthday with club members at her vintage 1963 Airstream Safari

               

                When:

                WBCCI Rally: Thursday, August 3, 2013 through Sunday, August 6, 2013

                Airstream Open House: Saturday, 8/5, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

                100th Birthday Party: Sunday, 8/6, 11 a.m.

               

                Where:

                West entrance, Big County Park, 123 Main Street, Anytown USA.

                Look for the colorful flags flying and rows of aluminum Airstream trailers

 

                Why:

                As part of the historic Wally Byam Caravan Club International (WBCCI), the 200-member Central States Unit has included Anytown on their annual summer rally calendar for ten years.

 

                The Silver Bullet Rally Airstream Open House is a part of the Big Local Classic Car Show www.biglocalcarshow.org

               

                To arrange an interview with Ms. Vagabond or the President of the Central States WBCCI, contact:

                P.R. Volunteer

                000-000-0000

                Contact person @ email address

 

                About the Wally Byam Caravan Club International (WBCCI)

 

                The Wally Byam Caravan Club International offers fun, fellowship, and adventure for owners of the world’s finest RV, the Airstream.

                Founded in 1955, the WBCCI has touched the lives of Airstream owners for nearly sixty years and continues in the spirit of Wally Byam, inventor of the Airstream, who introduced glamour to trailer touring.

                Dedicated to fostering friendships and a passion for travel through a common interest in the Airstream lifestyle, the WBCCI offers caravans, rallies and activities through the more than 122local Units throughout the United States and Canada. Learn more at www.wbcci.org.

Pitch

Especially effective for news desk assignment editors at television stations, a pitch is a phone call (or email message with a preceding phone call head’s up) delivering a story idea personally to an editor or specific reporter.

Plan your pitch in advance to keep it short, sweet, and on point:

  • Can you piggyback your story idea on recent news, columns or national trend?
  • Is someone notable involved?
  • Are there strong visuals, or can you create visual drama for the reporter?
  • Research the reporter and the station or publication. Ask yourself how your story relates to the publication and the reporter’s interests.
  • Define exactly what you want the reporter to do.
  • Prepare two or three pitch points to talk about, and be prepared to quickly switch conversation topics.
  • Condense your pitch to ten seconds.
  • Give a clear call action, including interview opportunities.
  • Don’t apologize for calling the busy reporter. It’s never a good time, and remember, they require tips and story ideas to develop news for their audience.
  • Commit to your idea and why it’s right for their publication or broadcast.

Clearly and simply explain your idea; be casually direct. Have your fact sheet or press release on hand to refer to. EXAMPLE:

 “Randy, hi. This is P.R. Volunteer from the local Airstream club. We’ve got an exciting event coming up this weekend that would be a good fit for the <Weekender broadcast/Sunday lifestyle section/photo for the front page of the Go supplement.

One hundred Airstream trailers will be arriving at Big County Park for our Central States rally. Lots of colorful flags flying, members in their blue berets, and the silver trailers will be all lined up in the park for an   Airstream open house. We usually attract over 400 people to tour them. Everybody loves Airstreams!

And Mabel Vagabond, who was in the news last year for being the oldest local resident to travel around the world, will be celebrating her 100th birthday right there with her vintage Airstream and 100 others.

I can set you up with an interview with her/give you a personal tour of one of the most interesting vintage or brand new trailers/have the club president tell you about the local club.

In this region, RV sales have recently increased 30%/antique vehicle restorations have had a resurgence in popularity/local seniors are embarking on Airstream extreme camping caravans/more and more women are RVing alone/the national glamping trend is catching on with the local Airstream club>. I can forward our press release to give you more background.

Our Unit is part of the Wally Byam Caravan Club; it’s been around for sixty years and is one of the largest   RV organizations in the world. Wally Byam? He invented the iconic Airstream eighty years ago. They’re still    American-made today!

Saturday afternoon and Sunday midmorning will be the best times to catch most of the action.”

A pitch letter is similar, and can be used to interest a reporter or editor in writing a newspaper feature or magazine article. Like a phone pitch, you’ll have only a few seconds to grab attention and keep the recipient reading. Pitch letters can be effective for placements in special interest magazines, but they require a long lead time—often months in advance—and stories must be well suited for their readers.

Provide a story proposal that:

  • Is personalized to the editor, use their name.
  • Is short, direct and easy to read; editors are inundated with hundreds of letters each week. Limit it to two or three paragraphs; they’ll contact you for more detail if they are interested.
  • Is tailored to appeal perfectly to their audience.
  • Aligns with their editorial calendar.
  • Includes facts and figures, without marketing or promotional content.
  • Uses bullet points, links and words that convey emotion, immediacy, and importance.
  • Is newsworthy; look for an overarching theme that fits with the mission of the outlet you’re pitching and appeals to a wide audience.
  • Provides necessary links and contact information for more detail
  • Establishes you as a credible, trustworthy resource and positions your Unit as the leading RV club in your region and your members as the go-to spokespeople for trailer adventures.
Category: About WBCCI