From the horse’s mouth How to annoy journalists, how to make friends and how to make us read (and use) your press releases. Celina Ribeiro Fundraising magazine editor Civil Society Media @celina_ribeiro_
How to really annoy journalists (Often we’re nice people, but sometimes we get angry).
How to really annoy a journalist Wasting time. We are (nearly) always on deadline. Calling, running into a pitch and then sending the release anyway. Calling to ask if we’ve run a story, or asking that we let you know if, when and where it runs. This really isn’t our job. Taking a call from a reporter requesting interview or info, letting them go through it, and then asking for all that EXACT SAME INFO be put into an email. Arranging to meet up, but not preparing. It should be a productive time to share info and build relationships. Both.
How to really annoy a journalist II It’s not about you. Being a block to your organisation. Relationships between journalists and people in your organisation are a good thing. Not letting your people speak for themselves. Sitting in on an interview is a sign of distrust of both your own staff and the journalist. Not preparing your people when they are meeting or speaking with a journalist. They should know what the publication does and why they are speaking. The angle is for the journalist/publication to decide.
How to really annoy a journalist III Just some general beefs PRs are the spokespeople for their organisation. You are always on the record and should be prepared for such. Sometimes off the record information is useful, but clearly advise if you are speaking if you are talking off the record – and it should be worth it. Understand who you are pitching to. We are not interested in pictures of young children in make up holding real automatic weapons (true story). Using Twitter to pitch at me. No.
Being a good partner Ask us about ourselves. Limit your promiscuity (where possible). Surprise us – even with the little things. Spontaneity counts (leaking info counts more). Don’t waffle off subject.
Being a good partner Do what you say you will do, and don’t over-promise. Don’t crowd us. Respect is mutual. Plan with us. Follow up. Be honest.
What do you want?What you want and what you have to offer should determine what and how you communicate with journalists at different publications. Be open-minded about what kind of coverage you can get. - News story - Publication support - Position people within the charity as expert pundits for interview - Pitch a feature article - Collaborate on an article or investigation - Help put human face on stories – access!- Couple of ideas - Why not build relationships with freelancers? They often have a better grip on the ear of editors and if you can offer them a good, strong story they’ll do the pitching for you. - Journalists are at our most receptive once you’ve already delivered. If you’ve managed a quick turn-around on a comment or such, perhaps look at offering more on the subject – now is a good time to suggest meeting up or the like. - Everyone loves DATA now!
The technicalities: A good press release What you want to do is go from this
A good press release… Date your press releases. Whether they are sent out, embargoed or published online. Date them. Seriously. Embargoes. Embargoes can be useful and give journalists time to do a story properly. Sending out an embargoed story with too short a deadline will risk it getting shelved, too long and it could be forgotten. Two days is a good time frame for daily print/web production. Know the lead times for other types of publication. Contact details. Obvious, but often overlooked. The best contact details are for someone outside the press office (sorry), or the opportunity to interview or speak to someone responsible for whatever it is that’s going on. This goes for releases online in particular. Details, details, details. It’s a balancing act, but provide as much information as you can. If someone is leaving your organisation – why and where to? If you’ve got an appeal – what is it, why and for what purpose? Be prepared to answer questions. Usually the details in your release won’t be enough, so be prepared for questions to come back to you after the release is sent. Try to anticipate what these could be and get as much info as possible, but if not know what info you can and cannot get.
A good press release… Images. A press release which comes with an image in the first instance is much more likely to be considered. Do not include them within Word Docs – these are not useable, even for web. Send low-res JPEGs or GIFs with the opportunity to have high-res versions for print. General rule of thumb is 300dpi for print. Subject line should be something other than ‘PRESS RELEASE. PRESS RELEASE. PRESS RELEASE.’ Over-claiming is transparent and annoying. Is it really, really pioneering? Is it a world- first? Some of the most over-used words in press releases are: Innovative Groundbreaking Game-changing ‘Charities are hit hard by an increase in demand for their services and reduced income’ Leading XXX charity Famous names will help. Sad, but true - particularly if you offer interviews or photos with them. Don’t have to be big names, but relevant to the audience you’re after.
A good press release… Be timely. Don’t try and shoe-horn your charity into the zeitgeist. Quirky stories can work for some publications (dog wedding coinciding with Wills & Kate) but typically induce eye-rolling. Do, however, be ready to issue even a two-line statement if something relevant to your organisation hits the media. Send this around everywhere and offer further opportunities to speak. Be outspoken. Candid and controversial - but considered – individuals within charities will get more column inches. Don’t be controversial for the sake of it; it’s pretty transparent. Write for dummies. Don’t assume prior knowledge. What does NSPCC do? What is payroll giving? These details need to be in the footnotes – don’t waste time in the body. No more than one page, unless you really, really need to. Good example is Oxford University’s press release when they got a major gift £75. It ran for 4 pages, but it was all really useful.