Top ten tips for writing a press release that cuts the mustard

Getting coverage in print and online helps to raise the profile of your organisation and builds trust in your brand and if you’re a charity, having an awareness of your cause can really boost your fundraising efforts.

The challenge is getting the attention of journalists who are looking for something that’s fresh and relevant to their readers.

So, to give you a head start, here are my top 10 tips for producing press releases that will get followed up:

  1. Journalists should be able to get the gist of the story in the opening paragraph – the ‘who, what, where, why, and when’. Critically, don’t forget to include key dates, such as the announcement of a research finding or an event, so the news outlet can publish the story before it becomes old news.
  2. Write in Plain English and avoid technical or scientific jargon, except when this is intrinsic to the story, in which case explain in layman’s terms. Ditto use of acronyms: don’t assume journalists will know what they stand for, so write in full the first time around.
  3. Try and link your story topical issue or event; for example how your organisation is responding to the impact of austerity measures, or a guide to successful project management inspired by the TV show, The Apprentice.
  4. Include a supporting quote from an independent authority, be that a service-user or expert in your field of business, in addition to your own spokesperson’s quote. This will add credibility and avoid it reading as PR ‘puffery’.
  5. Send your release to a named contact rather than you firing it off to everyone at the publication or website. Get to know your target publications and journalists, follow them on Twitter and find out which topics they’re interested in.
  6. A great picture tells a thousand words and can often make or break a PR pitch. If your promoting a prestigious event or if there are particular conditions on photo usage, (for example the photographer needs a fee for any front cover usage) it’s a good idea to set up an online photo gallery and ask journalists to request the large files.
  7. Ensure that your company/charity spokesperson is available for interview 24 hours following distribution of the release and that a back-up is available. Nothing annoys journalists more than a story which they can’t get their own unique angle on, or fresh quotes for.
  8. Keep it succinct. Use Notes to Editors to provide essential information about your mission, turnover etc and attach case studies separately if necessary – this is especially useful if you’re pitching to broadsheets and consumer press.
  9. Find out when the publications goes to print and avoid issuing releases at their busiest time. Keep follow up calls for those journalists you know are happy to chat. If you are given short shrift by a journalist or editor – keep a note and don’t do it again.
  10. Remember to thank journalists if they do run with your press release / story. A little thank-you email, tweet or even a hand written card for something really special will go a long way to nurturing you future relationship. Journalists are only human after-all!

For help telling your story in the media why not drop me a line to arrange a chat? kate.dawson@wellreadpr.com

A noble concept, but what will charities gain from Giving Tuesday?

So it’s begun, the interminable hours surfing the net for the latest gizmos and tramping up and down the high street to find something… anything… other than the fall-back novelty socks for the impossible-to-buy-for relations. It’s a bit of a cliché, but haven’t we all rather lost the point?

The same notion must have crossed the minds of partners of 92nd Street Y, a Jewish led but multi-faith community centre in New York, who in 2012, together with the United Nations Foundation, created a national day of giving on 2nd December. Giving Tuesday aims to channel the generosity of the festive season to inspire action around charitable giving. The date follows Black Friday (regarded as the start of the Christmas shopping period) and Cyber Monday (one of the biggest online shopping days in the year).

As an antidote to the epic levels of consumerism as Christmas approaches it’s a noble concept, but what will charities actually gain from being part of Giving Tuesday, when surely they will just be shouting to be heard above all the other causes vying for attention? Emotionally bruised and a little lighter of pocket following Children in Need, and having dutifully purchased Band Aid 30, is it possible that the population may be suffering a little from ‘giving fatigue’?

In addition, the prospect of a national day of giving just two days before the Big Give, which enables charities to obtain match funding for their appeals, might also present a timing issue for charities who have chosen to participate in this established fundraising platform – which raised a combined        £11 million for over 380 charities last year.

The bottom line, according to a survey by The Non Profit Times, is that US charities received donations totalling at least 32 million dollars on 3 December 2013. Its success lies in harnessing the power of social media, to spread the message of giving. Last year the launch of the hashtag #Giving Tuesday was endorsed by Bill Gates and Barack Obama, no less.

Given the different culture of giving in America, one might also be forgiven for wondering whether something conceived in America will work so well this side of the Big Pond.

Step forward the Charities Aid Foundation who have taken up the Giving Tuesday UK mantle together with a steering group consisting of the Cabinet Office, Cancer Research UK, Scope, Charity Comms, Hope for Children, Stewardship, and Live Creative. The venture has been professionally co-ordinated and given a British make-over, with a slick Giving Tuesday UK website providing a plethora of ideas about how organisations can engage with the day, including some fundraising tactics which will come in handy any time of the year.

And the marketing seems to have worked with some 600-plus charities planning to use the day in a variety of ways: to promote existing Christmas appeals, signal new partnerships with corporates, or simply raise some awareness of a little known cause.

Connect Reading is one of the charities using Giving Tuesday to drive support from local business for its community focussed work.

“As a small local charity any opportunity to raise the profile of our mission is gratefully received.  Giving Tuesday will enable us to have increased awareness of our purpose to help the local community through the support of locally based businesses.  We are on our way to reaching        £1.5 million in-kind support since our launch in 2003 and with the increased awareness and participation from businesses and their employees we hope that Giving Tuesday will take us past this monumental milestone before Christmas,” said Clare Wright, Managing Director.

 

Music Heritage UK, a relatively new organisation which works to protect music venues, celebrate music history and engage new audiences with our musical heritage, is using the day to help raise its profile generally. The charity is hosting the unofficial closing party for Giving Tuesday featuring the Ringo: Music Bingo music quiz, hosted by Irish comedian Ronan Leonard.

“It’s not just about fundraising for us. We hope that by taking part we will become better known as a serious organisation committed to our charitable objectives, as well as attracting new visitors to our website, and increasing our following on social media,” said James Ketchell, chief executive.

Other participating organisations are simply using the initiative as a vehicle to remind their existing donors of their preferred charity on the day, and hopefully make more people aware of their cause by tweeting using the #Giving Tuesday hashtag throughout the day.

The impact of Giving Tuesday UK is yet to be revealed, but clearly charities do see the merit in participating with a view to boosting their coffers, as well as attracting new supporters which may last far beyond the season of goodwill.

…and if you’re really are bent on buying those novelty socks, look no further than the Sock Shop who have teamed up with a number of charities, so at least your purchase will help a worthwhile cause.

If you’re taking part in Giving Tuesday next week, we’d love to hear what you’ve got planned and how it worked for you.

Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Related links:

Giving Tuesday: More orgs, more money, more questions about donors, The Non Profit Times

Holly Mitchell at Charities Aid Foundation answering some key questions about Giving Tuesday

Charities Should Give, Not beg, On Giving Tuesday, The Chronicle of Philanthropy