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How To Pitch Stories to Print, Online & Broadcast Media

Aug 17, 2007
Creating win-win collaborations with media to get your story in the news requires time, energy and imagination. And, if you want to get in the limelight, it's something you have to learn as more and more editors struggle with limited time and resources and the "shrinking newsroom".

The American Birkebeiner, the largest cross country ski race in North America, is a good example. With more than 9,000 skiers and 15,000 spectators and 3 days of racing and events for all ages and fitness levels, you'd think it would be easy to get reporters on board to cover the plethora of human interest stories, the Ski for the Cure program, the challenge of training for a long-distance event, and on and on.

Sometimes it is easy. More often than not, however, I'm up against shrinking budgets and staff cutbacks. No doubt you are discovering the same challenges as you launch and conduct your own publicity campaigns. Here are 3 tips to help you reach your publicity goals:

1. Print: When it comes to newspapers and magazines, you'll not only need to pitch a story idea to a busy editor, you'll likely have to write the story and provide photos. I can already hear you saying, "If the editor likes my idea, why do I have to do HIS/HER job?" It's the reality of getting featured in the news today, so get to work learning how to write a balanced article that's tailored to a particular publication. Know the medium; know the editors; know the audience. Meet their needs and you'll find yourself consistently getting free publicity.

2. Online: When you write a story for a print publication, leverage your efforts by submitting it to online publications as well. The great news about getting published online is that your article, once posted, usually lives online forever. Again, know the medium; know the editors; know the audience. Remember to post your article to your own online Newsroom as well.

3. Television: It's a challenge to get television crews on site so do your homework ahead of time. Identify your hook, practice your pitch, and follow up with a well-written, succinct release that shows the producer how your story idea is the perfect match for their station, program and audience. Help them do their job by supplying contact information of folks who would be interesting interviewees, and, if you're lucky enough to have b-roll footage formatted for broadcast media, send it on.

Once you define your message and target media, write a press release a busy editor will pick up and publish or air. Many small business owners are surprised to find that crafting a press release is more like following a recipe than writing a creative essay. Industry dictates certain formatting requirements that can't be overlooked, even within the seemingly impossible 400 word count limit.

But why all the rules? Imagine you are an editor who receives dozens, even hundreds, of press releases every day. You're looking for news, good news that will attract readers or listeners and increase subscription numbers.

You are under deadline and have a big hole in our newspaper or broadcast.

You receive a press release with standard formatting, complete contact information, and an informative writing style that requires very little editing on your part. Another press release contains a mish-mash of fonts, salesy language, and missing or incomplete contact information. As a busy editor, which press release would you choose?

If you want your press release to get published or aired, follow traditional formatting standards:

1. Use 8 x 11 paper when you're faxing a press release.

2. Use a one-inch margins on each side of the page to increase readability at a glance.

3. Type "FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE" (no quotation marks) in all caps at the top of the page.

4. Include contact information two lines under "FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE." Include your name, phone, fax, email and website in case an editor wants to contact you to verify or clarify information.

5. Use a Bold typeface for the headlines, and capitalize the first letter of each word.

6. Include the city and state from which the press release is being issued along with the date that it is being sent at the beginning of the first paragraph of the body of the press release, ie, MADISON, Wis., January 7, 2007 Begin first paragraph here.

7. Include the who, what, when, where, and why in the opening paragraph so that the editor can discern the essentials of your release in a minute. The headline and first paragraph of the press release will make or break your chances of being picked up.

8. Complete the full paragraph at the end on each page instead of carrying it over onto the next page to make it easier to read and comprehend.

9. Use the word "more" between two dashes and center it at the bottom of the page to let editors know that another page follows.

10. At the top of the next page, include a line with the name of your business and topic of release and second line, single spaced, with the date and add #1. Double space and continue your release.

11. Use three number symbols, centered and immediately following the last paragraph to indicate the end of the press release.

When you send a press release without the three numbers symbols at the end, there is always a risk that editors will assume the document is incomplete and therefore unusable.

Getting your message into the hands of the right media is well worth the time and effort. When you give editors newsworthy stories on a silver platter, you are helping them meet deadlines, fill pages or air time, and maintain the interest of readers and viewers. You'll also find yourself being featured regularly.
About the Author
Marketing Spitfires Holly George and Leslie Hamp are creators of the 'Fast Track to Marketing Mastery' program. To learn more about the step-by-step program, and to sign up for their *FREE* Marketing Mastery Success Kit, visit www.boostyourbottomline.com
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