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Top Tips to get in the local newspapers

News from: Reading Voluntary Action (RVA)

by Rachel Miller (Capable Communities: Development Coordinator)

26 November 2012

On Thursday 22 November, we arranged for the Reading Post's Alan Bunce and James Ashford to run a session for local voluntary groups on how to make the most of the local media to raise your profile. It was a fantastic session with loads of great tips on who to contact, how and when to write. Here are a few of their top tips!

Who to contact
* Always send any info to the correct person – there are different reporters for different areas of Reading. You can find out who they are here www.getreading.co.uk/contact_us/s/2024490_contact_us for the Reading Post and www.readingchronicle.co.uk/aboutus/ for the Reading Chronicle.
* Going ‘higher up the chain’ doesn’t make a story more likely to go in – it’s the reporters that write the content.

Build relationships
Get to know the reporter most relevant to you – if they know who you are, they’re more likely to use your story. Call them up, ask to meet, keep in touch and point them in the direction of others - make yourself a useful contact for them.

Good press releases
* Put the area of Reading in the subject of the email.
* Put the text of the press release in the body of the email – don’t bother with attached documents – it’s one less thing to open and save.
* Make sure time, date and place (if it’s for an event) are clear and at the top of the press release.
* Give a clear concise explanation / summary of the event or story at the top that lets the reader know exactly what its about.
* Don’t give too much detail of the national situation – they are local papers interested in the local story.
* Provide a contact person (mobile number) that is easily contactable during the work day / the event itself.
* Always include a quote.
* If requesting a photographer – provide an exact time. Eg if an event is 12-4, but the busiest, best time for photos will be between 2pm and 3pm – tell them that time.
* Alway provide titles (Miss, Mrs, Ms, Mr…) otherwise the reporter will have to chase you up.
* 3-4 paragraphs is usually plenty – too much info and it could be off-putting to plough through if the reporter is busy or close to a deadline.
* Don’t just write a press release for the event itself – create some build up – when you’ve started work/received funding/decided a date, just before and just after – create an ongoing story for greater coverage.

Choose the right moment
Look for a quiet period for when your story might get most attention
January (esp first half) is the quietest month – reporters may struggle to get good content then.
* The summer holidays (parliamentary recess) are also quieter than the rest of the year.
* Wednesdays and Fridays are the quieter work days for The Reading Post as the paper has just gone out (longest gap until the next deadline) – these are the best days to get in touch.

Send a photo with your story – a really good photo with an ok story can sometimes trump a better story with no photo.
* Keep photos tight – don’t leave dead space in the shot – this will be chopped out or worse, not used.
* Send both a portrait and a landscape photo – more chance of fitting it in.
* News stories can be quite dry – the photo adds the emotion – a close up of a couple of people that captures the spirit is usually better than a zoomed out photo of the whole event.
* The quality of cameras on most modern phones is good enough for print.
* If you have a banner, or something identifying who you are – try to get this in the photo.
* Online content almost always has a photo.
* If you have nothing else, just send your logo - something visual is always good.

Make life as easy as possible
Reporters have very tight deadlines and so the easier you make it for them to use your story, the more likely they will be to use it. – Give all the details, be precise, don’t make the press release too long, provide a good photo.

Other ways to get in the paper
As well as a standard news story, The Reading Post also has spaces under:
* Letters
* Opinions column (best to make these timeless so can be used at any time)
* Faith column (as above)
* Community listings (for coming week)
* Events listing (similar to above but entertainment-based, often commercial)

Even if you've missed the print deadline and the next issue will be too late, a sufficiently exciting story could still end up on the website - so always give it a go!


news from Reading Voluntary Action (RVA)

Reading Voluntary Action Highbridge House, 16-18 Duke Street, Reading RG1 4RU
telephone 0118 957 4123

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