With ever decreasing resources in the printed press and the rise of streamlined online outlets journalists are under pressure from all sides. They no longer have the luxury of turning every single press release that hits their inbox into news. So how can charities and social enterprises make the most out of working with the press?
Make their life easier
Don’t give journalists a press release, give them a story. Try to write in the style of the target publication giving all the key information so a reporter won’t have to chase you up for details. As a good guide of what a story needs, follow the old journalism list of who, what, where, when, why, how. The dreaded cheque presentation does not make a interesting story for readers so try to avoid them.
Always provide a good quality picture with every story. Consider the structure of the picture. A close-up of a couple of people that clearly illustrate the story is fair better than a long line-up of all the people involved in the piece. And don’t forget to add full caption details. A library of professional stock photos covering many different scenarios is worth investing in if your charity has the budget.
Understand their position
Get to know your target outlets’ publishing schedules. Be aware magazines tend to have longer lead times, working further in advance than weekly newspapers and daily editions aren’t interested in news stories that are a couple days out of date. Press officers often make the mistake of believing that following up a press release by a phone call will make their story stand out. It almost definitely won’t but will almost always irritates some hard-pushed journalist who already made a judgement about your story when they waded through the hundreds of emails they receive every day. And most importantly, don’t bug them on a deadline – you will not endear yourself or your charity to them and may get very short shrift. A phone call before you send it however, could give you a good steer on what they would like from the story.
A lot of words are needed to fill every edition or website so it is a great help to an outlet to know they will have certain fixed items they can rely on each week. Negotiating a partnership with a paper to become its charity of the year benefits both parties. They get a definite number of stories from you each week, their readers like to have a cause to get behind and believe it or not, journalists enjoy using their position for good in the community. And you get a fantastic fundraising and awareness raising opportunity.
Acknowledge the press’s help. Thank the reporters that helped you out personally. You will be remembered because so few people do, most just complain. These days the best way to show how much it means to your employers is to reshare the content when it is published. Boost traffic to the paper’s website through your social media, let your supporters know when the charity is going to be in the paper so they can go out and buy it. Nothing warms the cockles of hardened editors’ hearts like a boost in circulation. It also helps you by making sure more people see your story.
Big Heart Network has many years of journalism experience. We love passing on our expertise. If your organisation needs training on how tell your story so reporters and their reader will listen, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org