Get the Inside Scoop Experts Share Their Top Six Tips for Great Press Releases Huntington Downtown Lion Lee Ann Welch wants Lions to let the secret out. “Lions clubs are the best-kept secret around. But you want your community to know the good things you’re doing. That’s a powerful recruiting and fundraising tool,” says Welch. She knows one excellent way to spill the beans: writing a great press release. As a newspaper reporter as well as publicity chairperson for District 29 O in West Virginia, Welch understands the ins and outs of news releases from both sides. “I hate to see a good project go unnoticed or a fundraiser poorly attended due to a badly written or timed news release,” she says. Follow these top six quick fixes from pros and go from the best-kept secret to the talk of the town. 1. Make It Newsworthy “Ask yourself: is this the type of story I’ve ever seen in a newspaper or online publication? If the answer is no, you don’t have news,” says Karen Grava, director of media relations at the University of New Haven in Connecticut. That doesn’t mean your news needs to be earth-shattering, points out Kay Paumier, founder of the communications marketing firm, Communications Plus (www.Communications Plus.net). Make news out of announcing an event or anniversary by presenting it as different, important, local, timely and having human interest. “The more of these characteristics, the better. Without them, nothing else matters,” says Paumier. 2. Get the Timing Right Give editors a heads-up well before an event or project. “Don’t wait until one or two days before an event to contact the newspaper or TV station. At that point, it’s too late because reporters and photographers are already assigned,” explains Welch. Send news releases two weeks before an event and follow up a couple of days before with a phone call, advises Welch. 3. Draw Them In Improve a release’s chances of being read with a catchy headline. “If an editor doesn’t see value in the first few seconds, they will discard it without even reading the rest,” says Grava. Craft a headline that will build interest and capture the content. “Something like ‘Thirty Children See Clearly Now, Thanks to Lions Club’ summarizes a vision screening in a compelling way,” says Paumier. 4. Get to the Point Explain the who, what, where, when, why and how quickly and succinctly. “I received a three-page, single-spaced release from a Lion that wasn’t tied to an event or project. I handed it to an editor; I don’t believe it was ever read,” says Welch. She recommends that a release have no more than five paragraphs of three sentences each, with the most important details at the beginning and boilerplate club information at the end. 5. Add Some Oomph “Think visually. TV stations and newspaper photographers are always interested in great visuals of people doing things,” says Grava. Including action photos or indicating the great photo ops there will be at an event will catch an editor’s eye. Including relevant quotes will also add to a release’s impact. 6. Send It with Care Make sure the right person receives the release. “Check with the publication for the reporter who covers nonprofits or community-related news,” advises Paumier. To send it, email is usually the way to go these days. “Never attach something. The media don’t open attachments due to viruses,” warns Grava. Simply paste the text into the email. If all the key elements are in place, your club’s secret will soon be out and new members may be on their way. –Jennifer Gilbert Gebhardt Find sample press releases and download a template by searching for “sample press release” at www.lionsclubs.org. Digital LION Read Kay Paumier’s “The Killer News Release” for many more fantastic tips and access LCI’s PR Guide at www.lionmagazine.org.
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