Always remember that newspapers and radio stations need news – local newspapers especially thrive on topical local news which will engage their readers. 33 million people read a local newspaper every week. Local radio stations can also be approached and are particularly keen if there is someone they can interview for a short (20–30 second) sound-bite.
Contact local media in advance of an event if it is likely to be one that would merit coverage on the day and remind them the day before of the details. You will no doubt know the name of your local and regional newspapers but remember to contact free newspapers as well. A list of the most popular papers in each area can be found at the website of the Newspaper Society.
Unless you or a friend has a contact at the local paper you should try to speak with someone on the news desk. Know your facts before calling or refer to notes prepared in advance. Try to note the name of the person and build up a rapport with them and ask how best to get press coverage. They may want a verbal outline of the story or a letter written to the editor. However, it is most usual to send or e-mail newspapers a ‘press release’, which contains all the information required for the journalist to write the story. Download our document for more information on press releases as well as an example.
Before you start writing a press release, you need to consider what you want your publicity to achieve. This will focus your mind and help you decide what information you want to communicate and what you want the press to do for you. For example, if you are selling tickets for a large event then you will want the public to know where and when the event is, what it is, whom it is in aid of, how much the tickets are, and where to buy them. You will aim to contact the press a few months in advance of the event to allow time to sell the tickets before the event.
Always remember that newspapers have limited space and other events will be competing for coverage. Stories must not only engage but also retain a reader’s interest. Try to think what your event’s news angle is. Is it a quirky event, a big event or the first of its kind, or do you wish to engage the public with the personal aspect of your story and why you are raising money? Again, this will guide you as to the way you structure your approach to the newspaper and how you ‘pitch’ the story.