Reaching Out to the Media
Never sit around waiting for someone (especially the media) to call. There are times when the best way to spread information is to go out and capture the news media's interest. This page covers the following topics: Preparing News Releases and Story Pitches, Creating Public Service Announcements, Planning News Conferences, and Additional Resources.
Preparing News Releases and Story Pitches
Both news releases and story pitches help inform the news media about events and issues. News releases are prepared statements that you send to media outlets. They are typically formal, and frequently written in the style of a complete news story.
Story pitches, as the name suggests, are ideas for stories that are shared with reporters - a sucessful pitch will interest the reporter enough to cover the story. Pitches can be as informal as a phone call, or they can be written out. E-mail is a great way to pitch a story idea to a busy reporter. No matter how you pitch a story, be prepared.
If you want your release to be used or your pitch accepted, you need to understand what journalists look for in a news story. Reporters want to hear about topics that can be developed into stories. What they view as news is not always the same as what Purdue Extension professionals see as news. A list of contest winners' names may be important to you, but may not be to the average daily newspaper reader.
For a list of elements journalists consider newsworthy, visit Preparing for the Media: What Journalists Want: Interesting Stories
Writing Effective News Releases
Here are some basic tips for writing a successful news release:
- Remember Deadlines
Find out what the deadlines are for important news media by calling and asking the editor or producer. For events, make sure to send your release at least three weeks prior to the event.
- Always Include Your Name and Number
Reporters will need to contact you for additional information and to check the facts.
- Keep Releases Short
Reporters will decide quickly whether your release is newsworthy, so make sure to provide enough information to cover basic details but do not make the release too long.
- Always Submit Releases on Letterhead
This will help establish credibility as well as build brand identity.
- Write in Inverted Pyramid Style
In other words, write from the most important point to the least important point. That's still the style most journalists practice. If a newspaper needs to shorten a story, they begin cutting from the bottom.
View a sample news release.
Making a Successful Pitch
A good story is more than just sharing an idea with a reporter. Sucessful pitches interest reporters enough to make them want to write the story themselves. Pitches can be formally written documents or informal conversations. Anyway, a good pitch must present reporters with enough details to make them interested.
Here are some tips to help you get reporters swinging at your story pitches:
- Know the Publication or Station
Know what they consider newsworthy, and be prepared to refer to previous stories as examples. Tell reporters how and why their audience will appreciate your information.
- Appeal to a Journalist's Instincts
Relate your stories to what journalists find newsworthy. The more impact, conflict, novelty, prominence, proximity, or timeliness a story has, the more likely reporters will cover it. See Preparing for the Media: What Journalists Want: Interesting Stories.
- Pitch a Story Idea, Not Yourself
Instead of saying, "I can talk to you about calving," say, "This is the time of year a lot of farmers prepare for spring calving. Did you know that more than half of those farmers . . ."
- Provide Other Sources
Reporters are trained never to write one-source stories. If you can, provide the names and contact information for additional sources, so reporters have other people to talk to.
Creating Public Service Announcements
Another valuable tool for informing audiences about Purdue Extension and some of the programs we offer are public service announcements (PSAs). TV or radio PSAs are usually 10-30 seconds long. When planning a PSA, it's important to cover the 5 W's (who, what, when, where and why) in the short time you have.
It's also important to remember that PSAs should contain some call to action, such as the location of a meeting, a number to call for more information, or a place to write for more information.
PSAs are not advertisements! They should contain vital public information. For example, simply saying that Purdue Extension is great for the community lacks a call to action. However, telling people about specific programs and how they can sign up for them, would make a good PSA.
Check with your local station for PSA guidelines. Some stations require PSAs to be recorded at the station, others may require you to produce your own, and others might want the copy to be written so they can read them on the air.
The following PSAs are provided for your use in working with local radio stations. Feel free to adapt them to your needs.
Public Service Announcement #1
Hello, I am __________________ a Purdue Extension Educator in _____________ County. Using research from Purdue University, I provide all members of this community opportunity to improve their lives through learning. Purdue Extension in ___________ County has Knowledge to Go for you. Find out what we offer in _____*_______ _____*________ and _____*_______. Helping you and your neighbors improve life through knowledge is a way of life for me. Call me, _______________ , at 888-EXT-INFO or 888-398-4636 [or substitute your own number].
Public Service Announcement #2
At Purdue Extension of ____________ County, we have research-based information you can use now. That's why we call it, Knowledge to Go. Hello, I am ___________, a Purdue Extension Educator in ____________ County. My goal is to bring knowledge to you and your neighbors in the areas of ____*____, _____*_____ and ______*______. It is my pleasure to live and work in this county and watch it grow. Education is an important part of that growth. I invite you to visit us at our office at __________ or call us at 888-EXT-INFO or 888-398-4636 [or substitute your own number].
Public Service Announcement #3
Hello, my name is _______________________________________ a (Consumer & Family Sciences, 4-H/Youth Development, Agriculture & Natural Resources, Leadership & Community Development, Horticulture) Educator for Purdue Extension in __________________________ County. Using research from Purdue University, I have the opportunity to encourage youth, strengthen families, and assist others in improving our community and the environment. Purdue Extension in ___________ County, specializes in education that is ready for you to use now. That's why we call it, Knowledge to Go. We are the place to find information about: _______*_______ __________*___________ and _________*_________ . As an Educator, with Purdue Extension in ___________ County, helping others learn is a way of life for me. For more information call me at: 888 EXT-INFO or 888-398-4636 [or substitute your own number].
* Pick up to three or add your own: 4-H, natural resources, agriculture, animal sciences, horticulture, food safety, nutrition, health and wellness, parenting, family relationships, finances, leadership, biotechnology, environment.
Use 1-888-EXT-INFO or add your own number.
Planning News Conferences
A news conference is an event to which you invite the media to a briefing on a topic you've prepared for. Typically, these are reserved to announce major news or events, and consist of a prepared statement and time for questions from reporters.
A news conference is not the same as a news availability - that's when you make yourself available to the media to provide an opportunity for them to ask you questions. A news availability is much less formal and there is no prepared statement.
Consider this list when planning a formal news conference:
- Reserve a room large enough to accomodate those invited. The meeting area must contain electrical outlets and space for television crews.
- Have tables, chairs, pencils, paper, and a lectern.
- Arrange to have a microphone and loudspeaker.
- Have water and glasses for speakers.
- Arrange for parking.
- Notify the media by phone or e-mail as soon as possible (and certainly no less than the day before).
- Invite public officials and VIPs who have an interest.
- Brief participants about the format and possible questions.
- Make up a press kit, which may include:
- News releases
- Biographical data on speakers
- Background information on Purdue Extension
- Use the Purdue Extension sign/banner
- Look for visuals for televison - see Preparing for the Media (bottom of the page)
- Post signs directing news media to the conference site.
- Provide telephone receptionists and other appropriate people with relevant information about the conference.
- Arrange to have someone meet the media.
- Take notes in case reporters call later about the content.
- Distribute news releases, speeches, etc. to selected media outlets who did not send representatives to the conference.
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