By Nancy Butler
Getting your name in the news can be worth its weight in gold to your business. A story in your local newspaper or on the radio adds credibility because it’s editorial, not advertising. And the cost can be almost nothing because you don’t pay a dime for the space or airtime.
How do you make news? Chances are you already have a story or two with editorial value. On the next four pages are some examples of topics that can make the headlines in the daily news or in trade publications like BEDtimes.
One thing you can count on: If your release hasn’t got a news slant or if it reads like advertising copy, it’ll wind up in the wastebasket. It’s important to remember that a press release is NOT advertising. In advertising, you buy space; in publicity, you supply information.
Now that you’ve identified a story, get it on paper. If your budget can handle professional help – a public relations agency, consultant or freelancer – that can be a very sound investment. But if not, don’t be afraid to test your own writing skills, or those of talented people in your company. A simple, 1– or 2– page press release is all you need. Keep it short. One page is ideal, no more than two.
Stick with the facts – lots of flowery adjectives don’t help and can even hurt your chances of being read as real news
Type it on your store letterhead. If you don’t have a computer with word processing software, the old–fashioned typewriter is fine, but handwritten isn’t.
Double space between lines. It’s easier to read, and it’s standard for professional releases.
Put your name and phone number in the upper right–hand corner. This is important!
Include the date and indicate that it’s for immediate release. If there’s a reason the story can’t be made public until later, use that date and FOR RELEASE.
Put your most exciting news, your best attention–grabber, right in the headline.
Include the “who, when and where” in the first paragraph.
Include a quote from you or another key person.
Play up the “photo opps” – the more visual an event, the more likely the press will send someone to cover it.
Close the release with three pound signs. If there’s a second page, type “–more–” at the bottom of the first.
Proof it. Proof it. Proof it. Be sure to proofread carefully and double–check spelling. If you’re not good at it, find someone who is.
Be sure to send your release to the editors of all the local papers, including weekly shoppers – they’re always hungry for news. Check the papers to see if there are specific sections that would best suit your story – Lifestyle? Home section? Maybe there’s a local columnist you think would be interested? It won’t hurt to send several copies to the same paper.
Radio and TV stations.
Send copies to program directors at your local stations. If possible, find out the names of the assignment editors who review releases. If there are specific shows that might be interested in your story, get the names of the producers of those shows.
Ad people don’t make editorial decisions, but your ad reps can be helpful in directing you to the right people, giving you names and even following up to see if a release got noticed.
The trade press is your best partner when it comes to company news. Don’t forget to put BEDtimes at the top of your mailing list. Even if your story has a distinctly local slant, make sure that every home furnishings trade publication gets a copy. You never know when an editor might be looking for an item to fill a last–minute space opening.
In addition to “hard” news stories, your company may also be a good candidate for general–interest or feature stories. Consider these examples:
Getting feature coverage may take a little more thought, time and personal effort on your part – a quick press release or letter may not be enough.
This is also a particularly good time to take advantage of any media connections you may have. But once you’ve got an editor or reporter interesting in pursuing your story, they’ll typically take it from there.