Press
and other media matters

If you are promoting your countryside project you will want to get some good coverage in your local media. Here are some ideas and hints for you to use.

General Hints
Press Releases
Posters

General Hints

Reading the ISle of Wight County PressBuild up a relationship with key people in the media. Ring them up when you've got a particularly good story and tell them. Notice whose byline is above the nice coverage in your local paper and ask for them by name. Don't forget the radio, too. BBC local radio is almost always your best place to start.

Aim at the local media only unless you really do have a story of national interest. This means that you need to read/listen to the local media and see what stories they like. That's right, you've twigged it, 'brave cat stuck up tree' is more newsworthy than 'rare habitat enhanced'.

Get your timing right. Media is all about deadlines so be sure not to pester radio reporters at 5 minutes to the hour (they're about to do a news report) or weekly newspaper reporters the day of their weekly deadline - unless the story is massive and really urgent. Common sense will normally tell you when these deadlines are but don't be afraid to ask.

Forget the local TV news. Always send them the stuff but don't waste your time trying to get them to come. Either they will or they won't and nothing you can do will affect it (probably). They also have a habit of saying things like 'we should be able to come, so can you wait for an extra half-hour before you start' and then not turning up. Don't make any special arrangements for the benefit of the TV unless you can actually see them there in front of you. If you are lucky enough to get their attention, specialist programmes (like Countryfile or local versions thereof) are a lot more reasonable. It's usually worth putting yourself out for them, and the coverage you get will be a lot better.

Press Releases

A good press release is an art. Luckily it's not too hard to learn.

1. All press releases should be about something newsworthy - the practice of sending out press releases about nothing in particular does not work, and it is better to not bother. Think about what you are writing. Would you want to read it in the newspaper or hear it on the radio?
2. All press releases should be double spaced, with wide margins.
3. Press releases should look good, and not be scrappy or untidy. Presentation matters, as does speelling.
4. Press releases should have the words "PRESS RELEASE" written large upon them, to make it clear what it is.
5. The practice of using an "Embargo" date or time, often recommended as standard, is not sensible unless there is a good reason, eg if you are publicising an speech due to be made by a dignitary, and releasing the text in advance.

EXAMPLE PRESS RELEASE
A snappy title

This is the text of the release. The first few lines must get the attention of the reader. Use short sentences. Site Manager Michelle Chadwick said:

"Use quotes, they're great!" In the text you must say do not and have not, etc. In quotes you can say "Doesn’t and Haven’t" and get away with it. Write in simple English and do not use jargon. Refer to places and organisations by full titles, not initials or abbreviations. For example, do not say 'The Council' or 'BDC' but 'Borsetshire District Council'

Break up the text with paragraphs. Topics which tend to get attention include, children, sick children, disabled people, cuddly animals, misfortune, elderly people, embarrassment, local connection, love angle, green issues, criminals. A prize to anyone writing a release including all these. Never, ever, go on for more than one page.

Try to end on a high(ish) note. "We all had a good laugh," said Michelle, "when we saw the draft press release!"

RELEASE ENDS

Further information: Title of event, short description (<6 words), location, time, date, at least two contact names and phone numbers which should be contactable any time - even your home number or mobile number if necessary.

Photo opportunity: location, time, date.

In addition you should consider including a sheet of 'Information for Editors'. This would be the same for every release, and contain general information about your project. A good leaflet would do the job, but the media like to have it all laid out so why not construct a special sheet (yes, just one sheet), and include on it who you are, what you do, why, your great achievements, brief history, sponsors, important species/habitats and so on. This then saves you from filling up every press release with this stuff, helps you to keep the actual release down to one page (so important), and also makes sure that the editors get used to the message and maybe even remember it from one month to the next.

Posters

Posters should have a one or two word message clearly visible from 10m or further, such as "Guided Walk", "Ghost Walk", "Dormouse Day" or whatever. In smaller print have perhaps 10 words of further description; date, time, place and a phone number. That should do it. Do not make a poster too detailed. A4 posters are cheaper and more popular with shopkeepers. If you have the means, why not do some A4 and some A3, so you have a choice. If you can afford it, laminate a few of them for outside display. One colour (eg black on coloured paper) is also usually fine, and even if it is for inside display make sure it is photocopied or laser printed and not printed on an inkjet printer as this will run and crinkle.

Posters should normally go up 10 days to one week before the event, and come down immediately afterwards. Put posters up in shops and anywhere else suitable, depending on the sort of project you are doing. if you can, put a poster or two close to the walk starting point. If it is visible from the road, this is even better.