Freelance journalist and PR consultant Matt Cornish, a former editor of the Craven Herald, gives some tips for getting attention on a shoestring.
He said: “In these digital times, it’s tempting to overlook traditional media such as newspapers, news and community websites. But my old paper the Craven Herald still has a strong local brand.
“It sells over 12,000 copies each week in Craven, and is read by at least 20,000 people. Its online audience will be even more than that, and its Twitter account has nearly 4,500 followers.
“These are people in your business catchment area who voluntarily pay for a product which can help raise your company profile.”
Five quick tips on sending press releases.
1/ Read the paper.
If you don’t read, watch or listen to the media title you want publicity in, then you may struggle to understand the kind of press releases they like and will use.
2/ Don’t expect instant results.
You may think your story is amazing and very newsworthy, but it doesn’t get used. Worse, on page five there’s a really dull story about the local beer mat collecting guild’s annual tombola.
It’s frustrating, but you need to accept the result there’s nothing you can do about it. And trust me, there are few things more annoying to a journalist than a caller complaining about coverage someone else is getting.
Each story gets judged on its merits, but there are dozens of reasons a perfectly decent press release might not be used. Sometimes it’s as simple as there not being enough room or the journalist not having enough time. You can increase your chances though, by:
3/ Making it easy for them.
A key thing about local newspapers these days is they’re run on skeleton crews. Tired, but dedicated, these people are often doing the workload of three people. This often explains point 2, but also opens up huge opportunities.
If you have a press release written in a way they’ll use – ie avoiding management speak – with a decent picture (not out of focus is a start!), and are prepared to answer any queries quickly, you’ll have far more success.
4/ Be nice.
Now, journalists probably don’t rank very highly in the popularity stakes, but on local papers, generally they’re actually pretty decent people who enjoy serving their community.
If something isn’t newsworthy, it’s not going in whatever, but it’s basic human nature that you’ll try harder for someone who’s been polite to you (although don’t over do it, journalists are very cynical people).
Conversely, being phoned by a pushy or rude individual seeking coverage, pretty much ruins your chances of anything going in. And as the saying goes, never make an enemy out of someone who buys ink by the barrel-load.
5. Who cares about your news?
Your company may be the centre of your world. You may employ 1,000 people, but why should anyone else outside your company care about your £50 cheque to a local charity? If your press release was about a different company – would you read it? Go back to point 1 – do you know the sort of stories they want and will use?
In summary – there’s no silver bullet, but a common sense, friendly and realistic approach will produce better results.