When I was a newspaper reporter (longer ago than I would like to admit) there was always a large “slush pile” of press releases that had to be processed. Those that were deemed worthy were published, and those that weren’t made their way to “file 13.”
There are no guarantees that any press release will be published by the local newspaper or gain attention from the local media outlet. However, my years in the newsroom showed me that there are some strategies that can tip the odds in your favor:
Local, local, local
If there is any local connection, it needs to be front and center in the first paragraph. If a press release didn’t have a local zip code, it needed to grab our attention quickly, because our newsroom was inundated by press releases from businesses across the country –and few, if any, had any bearing on our local news. When we saw that connection, we paid attention.
Make it easy for them to find the angle
If the press release isn’t about a local event, but involves a local resident, (who may, for example, have volunteered to help earthquake victims in Haiti), then the name of that resident needs to be in the first two paragraphs of the piece to help ensure it doesn’t get overlooked. Photographs help. High-quality artwork can make the difference between being buried in the back of the paper, or appearing above the fold in the community section.
Know the elements of Associated Press style, which is the grammatical guidebook of the newspaper industry. Reporters, like so many others, are overworked and underpaid. If your press release follows these stylistic rules, not only does it take less effort for them to get your story ready for print, but it indicates that you know what you’re doing. When editors realize that your work only needs a very light hand, not only will they appreciate it, but they may—intentionally or not—prioritize it over other less-polished items.
There are many newsworthy events happening at your organization. However, your press release is one of dozens (or even hundreds) competing for attention. I hope these tips will help your news get a bit closer to publication.