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As newspapers reduce staff time in response to pressures on their business, it’s easier than ever to get a well-written press release published in your local paper. Newspaper coverage is free, doesn’t put you in direct competition with other businesses that advertise in the paper, and being featured in the newspaper carries with it an aura of legitimacy. What follows are tips on writing an effective press release that will get your business noticed.
You’ll need a consolidated list of press contacts. Look for reporters that cover the agricultural, environmental, or rural beat. You can also include any marketing staff at the paper that has been in touch with you about advertising. If you are using software for an email newsletter, you can create a separate list of press contacts in that software. Otherwise, Bcc the list through your regular email account.
Send an introductory letter to media outlets introducing yourself and outlining your professional expertise. Journalists often rely on more than one source for their stories, so providing them with some background information can help them choose you as a contact for stories. If you hope to be seen as a reliable contact for journalists, be sure to return calls promptly. Journalists are working on tight deadlines, and if you don’t return phone calls, they’ll stop coming. Make sure journalists know how you can help them!
Sometimes, you may have big news to share, like starting a new venture on the farm or winning an award. Businesses that are savvy about press releases, though, can spin much smaller events to make them newsworthy. Media outlets always run stories around the holidays, so use that to your advantage by announcing photo opportunities at your holiday events.
The “inverted pyramid” writing style, stating facts in descending order of importance, is the classic format for a press release.
The current state of newspaper staffing makes it more likely than ever that your press release will get published in full. This is an opportunity to write press releases that are more like newspaper stories – less factual and more engaging. See our Sample Press Release for an example of a press release written in this style. Writing tips:
Robin Hollow Farm and Crow Farm both get good press, although neither sends out many press releases. Polly sends out press releases in advance of special events, and has felt that they are hit or miss, depending on the news cycle. The magazine piece above, which is from the May 2011 issue of Rhode Island Monthly, is a feature on Polly that focuses on tips for arranging and growing your own flowers. In this case, the reporter knew Mike and Polly and approached them about doing a story, and they came to the idea of framing it as a tutorial together. Polly says, “I do lots of tours and lectures, so I’m known as an expert.” She is positioned extremely well, as reporters know that they can get a great story with an expert opinion, plus beautiful photos, by talking to her, and her press coverage is excellent as a result.
Paul noted that having a good relationship with a photographer for the local paper can be effective. If the photographer is sent out to bring back a summer farm scene and they know that your farm is lovely and you are open to being photographed, they are likely to visit again.
Both Polly and Paul are well-known enough in their communities that they are sought out by reporters and photographers for stories, despite neither relying heavily on press releases. If you are aiming to position yourself in that way, you have to do the legwork to make yourself known to reporters through press releases.
This material is based upon work supported by USDA/NIFA under Award Number 2010-49200-06201.
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