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News Release Writing and Working with the Media
 

News Release Writing and Working with the Media

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A basic understanding of writing news releases and what to do when a reporter calls to follow-up on the story. This is my favorite workshop to present!

A basic understanding of writing news releases and what to do when a reporter calls to follow-up on the story. This is my favorite workshop to present!

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  • The standard press release is 300 to 800 words and written in a word processing program that checks spelling and grammar before submission
  • That afternoon, Ivy Lee, who some consider to be the father of modern PR, created the first press release. The Pennsylvania Railroad was one of his clients. Following the accident, Lee not only convinced the railroad to distribute a public statement, he also convinced them to provide a special train to get reporters to the scene of the accident.
  • Materials are no longer only seen only by the press. Many releases are now posted online, either via newswire services or in company newsrooms, where they often rank highly in search results. That means customers, stakeholders, and others are likely to see them.News release has a broader focus, which accommodates the multiple audiences of our materials. It’s a good reminder that people outside the media will see our materials. Equally importantly, the term “news release” reminds us and clients that we should only issue releases when we have news.
  • Proximity - For the most part people are interested in stories that affect them personally; they want to know what's happing in their own back yard. Impact - Does your story impact someone's life? Try to think about the impact and significance to the average reader. Timeliness - People like current news, it's as simple as that. Prominence - The more well known a person involved in your story is, the more interesting it is as a news story. A great example of how this works is the recent hunting incident involving Dick Cheney. This story would not have been newsworthy if it involved John Doe accidentally shooting his friend while hunting. Conflict or Controversy - This can refer to many types of conflict and controversy such as physical, moral, ethical, ideological, political, etc. Uniqueness - An odd or truly unique story will most likely be newsworthy. Human Interest - As people we are naturally interested in hearing about other people. It's interesting to us for many reasons.
  • What is an inverted pyramid? It is the structure of the news release. It simply means that you should put the most important or enticing information in the first few sentences of your press release, and then unfold the rest in descending order of importance.Goes back to the times of morse code.
  • Make our news release standout in the stack of news releases on the reporter’s desk.Be clear yet clever, write in common language, and get to the point.
  • All text below the headline should be typed in 12 point Times New Roman font, double spaced.
  • It is essential that the lead catches the interest of the reader immediately and by rule-of-thumb it includes the core information of the story, or the traditional 5 W’s: . Its objective is to satisfy the reader’s curiosity.
  • It is essential that the lead catches the interest of the reader immediately and by rule-of-thumb it includes the core information of the story, or the traditional 5 W’s: . Its objective is to satisfy the reader’s curiosity.
  • This paragraph is known as the “boilerplate” — an old newspaper term meaning a block of standard text that’s used over and over again (e.g. the explanation of symbols on the stock price page).
  • Destroys our credibility and relationship-building if we do not cooperate.
  • The media fills the needs of the public.
  • Positionourself to promote our organization – near a sign, event, poster, or something promoting, yet not distracting.
  • Look in a mirror, if possible, just before going on camera. The reporter may not tell you that your collar is folded over or your hair is out of place. 
  • Assume everything you say is on the record, from the time you meet or talk with the reporter until he or she leaves the room or hangs up. You are some people’s first impression of the Be brief! We live in the age of the sound bite. The shorter our comments, the less likely we are to be edited. Everyone is looking for short, snappy quotes. library, so make it the best possible. Keep the interview positive, even if the subject is negative or the reporter's questions turn negative.
  • Stick to our main points and do not allow ourselves to get drawn too far off on tangents either. Most people make the mistake of talking too much. Repeat your points if necessary to get back on track. Speak in complete thoughts. The reporter’s question may be edited out and our response should stand on its own.If we do not understand a question, ask for clarification rather than talking around it. If we do not have the answer, say so. Tell the reporter where to find the information, if possible. For example, "It is our policy not to discuss lawsuits currently in litigation" or "I can't answer that because I haven't seen the research paper you are referring to."Instead, if we cannot or do not choose to answer, explain briefly.
  • Talk about the story topic in terms like “many people ask . . .” or “our readers most like to . . .” or “we get in excess of 100 attendees when we . . . “ or “blank really attracts kids in our community.” We want to build a relationship with the reporter, so make them feel in control.Tell the reporter where to find the information, if possible.
  • We live in the age of the sound bite. This helps the reporter get a "clean" sound bite and also has the added benefit of allowing you time to think out your answer.  If you don't like the way you worded your answer. 
  • Not the camera.Wandering around or rocking in your chair can cause the recorded volume to rise and fall.
  • Thank you for taking the time to cover the story and supporting the public/community library. The reporter may not have an answer, but if s/he does s/he'll be happy to tell you. Similarly, you can call with additional information if you forgot to make an important point. Journalism ethics don't generally allow a reporter to share his/her story before publication, but if you are offering to check his/her facts, it's giving the reporter an extra set of eyes and will gain them maximum credibility.
  • Like the rest of us, they usually hear only complaints and rarely get a call or note to say they've done a good job. Sometimes a correction can be printed or aired. You also will want to prevent the incorrect information from being used as background for future stories. Contacting his/her editor is a last resort. Looking for ways you might improve in the future.

News Release Writing and Working with the Media News Release Writing and Working with the Media Presentation Transcript

  • News Release Writing
    andWorking With the Media
  • In our workshop today, we are going to talk about:
    All about news releases.
  • In our workshop today, we are going to talk about:
    All about news releases.
    How to write the best news release.
  • In our workshop today, we are going to talk about:
    All about news releases.
    How to write the best news release.
    Submitting our news release.
  • In our workshop today, we are going to talk about:
    All about news releases.
    How to write the best news release.
    Submitting our news release.
    What happens when a reporter calls?
  • In our workshop today, we are going to talk about:
    All about news releases.
    How to write the best news release.
    Submitting our news release.
    What happens when a reporter calls?
    Preparing for the interview.
  • In our workshop today, we are going to talk about:
    All about news releases.
    How to write the best news release.
    Submitting our news release.
    What happens when a reporter calls?
    Preparing for the interview.
    Practice campaign.
  • All About News Releases
    What is a news release?
    It is a typed pseudo-news story, written in third person, directed at members of the news media for the purpose of announcing something newsworthy.
  • Where did the news release come from?
    On October 28, 1906, at least 50 people lost their lives when a three-car train of the Pennsylvania Railroad’s newly equipped electric service jumped a trestle at Atlantic City, NJ, and plunged into the Thoroughfare reek.
    That afternoon, the railroad’s PRP, Ivy Ledbetter Lee created the first press release.
  • Press Release vsNews Release
  • The first question we need to ask ourselves?
    Is our information, whether it is a program, event, service, or general information, truly newsworthy?
    • Community – Is it relative to our community?
    • Impact – Does it affect our community?
    • Timeliness – Is the information current and new?
    • Profile – Is someone high profile involved?
    • Conflict or Controversy
    • Uniqueness – Is it odd, crazy, or truly unique?
    • Human Interest – Does it tug at heartstrings?
  • If we answered YES! to any of those bullets, now we have to decide if we want to invite more attention.
    If we send a news release, we are inviting more attention.
  • How to write the best news release.
    The best news releases are written in ‘inverted pyramid’ style.
    What is inverted pyramid style? The most important information is first.
  • While there are several types of news release, most share these common structural elements include:
    1. Headline 5. Boilerplate
    2. Dateline 6. Close
    3. Lead 7. Media contact information
    4. Body
  • Headline
    A headline is used to grab the attention of journalists and briefly summarize our news.
    Ideally under 80 characters and written in title case.
  • Bad Headlines
    “NEW WEBSITE THAT OFFERS EVERYONE THE OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE LITERATURE ONLINE”
    “Nortel Achieves 3.6 Megabits Per Second HSDPA Data Call With Qualcomm”
    “NEW WEBSITE THAT OFFERS HERBAL WEIGHT LOSS PROGRAMS LETS TEENS SPEAK OUT ABOUT WEIGHT ISSUES”
  • Good Headlines
    “BIG LAUNCH: ONLINE NOVEL WRITING PROJECT THAT EVERYONE CAN JOIN”
    “Nortel Achieves Record Speedwith Qualcomm”
    “TEENS: ULTRA-THIN MOVIE, POP STARS SET BAD EXAMPLE”
  • Dateline
    The dateline begins the news release. It contains the release date and usually the originating city of the news release.
  • Lead
    The lead is the most important element in a news release. It is the story opener made up of 5W’s and an H. Objective is to inform and peak curiosity.
  • Begin the lead by bulleting our 5W’s and (if applicable) an H.
    Once we have bulleted this critical information, we can more easily convert it to a paragraph.
    Often times, our inspiration for a catchy headline comes in writing the lead or the body of the news release.
  • Body
    The body backs up our lead. It is further explanation, statistics, background, or details relevant to our news release.
    • Stick to the facts • Avoid hype (!)
    • Use active voice • Never use all upper case
    • Avoid extra words • Always check grammar
    • Beware of jargon/lingo
  • Never start a news release with a quote; our story is what is important, not our quote.
    If we are going to use a quote, we do it in the body of our news release.
  • Boilerplate
    This is generally a short “about” section. It is a sentence or two describing our library.
  • Close
    After the boilerplate or body and before the media contact information, the ### symbols indicate to media that the release is ending.
  • Media Contact Information
    The name, phone number, e-mail address, mailing address, or other contact information for the PR or contact person.
    If you would like more information or would like to schedule an interview, please call Laurie Boettcher at 000/000-0000 or e-mail laurie@mywebsite.com.
  • Activity
    • Write down three upcoming events at your organization.
  • Activity
    • Write down three upcoming events at your organization.
    • Pick your favorite one.
  • Activity
    • Write down three upcoming events at your organization.
    • Pick your favorite one.
    • Make a bullet point list of the 5W’s and an H of this program/campaign/event.
  • Activity
    • Write down three upcoming events at your organization.
    • Pick your favorite one.
    • Make a bullet point list of the 5W’s and an H of this program/campaign/event.
    • Convert the bullets into a paragraph.
  • Activity
    • Write down three upcoming events at your organization.
    • Pick your favorite one.
    • Make a bullet point list of the 5W’s and an H of this program/campaign/event.
    • Convert the bullets into a paragraph.
    • Create a headline.
  • Before submitting a news release:
    • Print it
    • Proofread it
    • Print it again
    • Have someone else proofread it
  • Submitting Our News Release
    News releases should be created in a Word document.
    Copy the Word document and paste it into an e-mail.
    Do not forget to attach the Word document as well.
    *Photos can be good, too!
  • To whom should we send our news release?
    • Local newspaper(s)
    • Local broadcasters - TV and radio
    • Specialty publications
    • Chamber newsletter (if we are a member)
    Don’t forget to include the news release or a link to it on our Facebook Fan Page, blog, and send a tweet!
  • What happens when a reporter calls?
    If the media picks up a news release or story we pitched, CONGRATULATIONS!
    We are being blessed with free publicity. 
  • If we send a news release, it is our OBLIGATION and RESPONSIBILITY to respond to media inquiries unless we would like to be blacklisted.
    Remember: Newspapers are under absolutely no obligation to publish anything for free, so we need to be grateful.
  • Use the handy-dandy Media Contact sheet to write down:
    • Reporter’s name and phone
    • Media outlet
    • What the story is about
    • Where the interview will take place
    • If the interview will be live or taped (TV or radio)
    • Story deadline
  • What if we are not prepared right now?
    Then we ask if we can finish up our project and return his/her call within the hour so s/he may have our full attention. Be respectful of deadlines!
    What if we are not the appropriate person to answer the questions?
    Select an available expert who will positively reflect our library and then help him/her prepare for the interview.
  • If we ARE the appropriate person, let’s take a moment to prepare by:
    • Writing down notes on the topic and the brief message(s) we want to convey
    • Avoiding technical jargon; use lay terms (Remember, cataloging, circ desks, and OPAC, oh my!)
    • Being ready to support our message with a few examples, stats, and/or facts
    • Keeping in mind what the public needs to know and how the topic impacts their lives
  • Location
    Choose a location where we can screen out extraneous noises.
    Hold our calls and turn off our computers, if possible.
    Avoid rooms with loud background hums from air conditioning or heating units.
  • Attire
    For television interviews, wear solid-color clothing.
    Stripes, plaids, or other designs can cause problems with color TV pictures.
    Avoid large, jangling, or reflective jewelry.
  • General Interview Notes
    • No such thing as ‘off the record.’
    • Speak with authority and energy.
    • Begin at a basic level. Offer brief background on the subject.
    • Be brief. Everyone is looking for the ‘sound bite.’
    • Keep the interview positive.
    • If questions veer off track, politely steer the interview back to our message.
    • Speak in complete thoughts.
    • If we do not understand a question, we need to ask for clarification rather than talk around it.
    • Never say, “no comment.”
    • If the reporter runs out of questions or doesn’t know what to ask, steer.
    • If we do not have the answer, say so.
    • If we are not sure the reporter understood our main points, ask him/her if they would like to clarify any points or if s/he has any questions.
    • Be knowledgeable, sincere, compassionate, and energetic.
  • Most important of all, whenever responding to a question, we should use the BRIDGE philosophy:
    • Answer the reporter’s question with yes or no.
    • Briefly and factually support the answer.
    • Bridge to a positive statement.
  • Broadcast Interviews
    • If interviewed by phone, the reporter is required by law to tell us we are being recorded.
    • TV and radio may use only a 10-30 second cut.
    • In edited interviews, do not answer questions too quickly; pause briefly before answering.
    • In edited interviews, it is okay to stop and start over.
    • In a TV interview, look at the reporter.
    • Stay stationary in front of radio or TV microphones and avoid sitting in a chair that rocks or spins.
    • Be aware of and avoid nervous habits such as pen tapping that can interfere with the interview.
  • After the Interview
    • Contact the reporter.
    • Thank him/her.
    • Ask when the story will appear/air.
    • If we feel we misspoke or gave incorrect information, call the reporter and let him/her know.
    • Offer to do a ‘fact check.’
  • After the Story
    • Give positive feedback to reporters, if merited, after a story appears.
    • If an error appears, let the reporter know right away.
    • If we are unhappy with a story, we should share our concerns with the reporter first.
    • For radio and TV stories, record the final broadcast to critique our own performances.
  • Let’s Put Our Knowledge to Work!
    Group 1: Positive
    Renowned author Nicholas Sparks currently has the number one and two books on the New York Times Bestseller List. He is coming to YOUR library to do a book discussion, signing, and take four lucky winners out to dinner.
    Write a press release for this event.
    Prepare for media interviews that may come from the news release being picked up.
  • Let’s Put Our Knowledge to Work!
    Group 2: Negative
    You are launching a new children’s Read ‘n Craft program at the library.
    Also note, Mayor Grumpy McGrumpy is proposing a significant budget cut for your library, which has been the topic of recent news stories.
    Write a press release for this event.
    Prepare for media interviews that may come from the news release being picked up.
  • You have 20 minutes to complete your news release. Have half of your team work on the news release, while the other half should jot down questions that may arise from reporters receiving the news release.
    Do your best.
  • Now that you have completed your news releases, submit it to the other team.
    You have 10 minutes to come up with a list of questions to ask the other team from a reporter’s point of view.
  • Get a partner from the other team.
    Sit in the back to back chairs.
    Person from team 1, you are a reporter who just received a news release that peaks your interest.Pretend you are calling to schedule an interview.
    Next, person from team 2,pretend you are calling to schedule an interviewto follow up on the news release you received.
  • What did you get from the media’s interview request?
    • What was the reporter’s tone?
    • Did s/he mention the highlight of the story?
    • What can you anticipate for questions?
    • Do you need to do any research or fact-finding?
    • Could the interview veer off track?
    • Could it go negative?
  • Time to interview.
    Each team pick a spokesperson for your team.
  • What did your team do well?
    What could your team have done better?
    Spokespeople, what would you have differently?
    What ‘sound bites’ or ‘headlines’ could you take from the interviews?
    Did the interviews help or hinder the events?
    Were your interviews fair?
  • Questions?
    Laurie BoettcherSpeaker, Trainer, and Social Media Enthusiast