To reach the people you need to through the right media, free of charge, you need to be inventive and creative – giving the media a truly interesting story.
Your Red Cross fundraiser in your area will be able to advise you on the best way to approach your local press.
Writing a good press release
Handling media interest
Sample press release
A press release contains details of a news story sent to the media, in the hope that it will encourage them to cover the story.
Editors are interested in how newsworthy a story is, rather than how worthy it is, so your press release needs to be well written and presented to catch their eye.
The best press releases have:
- a gripping first paragraph
- a local link or a good human interest angle
- a quote from a named person
- a contact name and phone number.
- is what we’re doing the biggest or the best?
- is it a first?
- is there something unusual or unique about it?
Your press release should answer all the following questions:
- who is doing it?
- what is it?
- where is it?
- when is it?
- why is it being done?
- how is it taking place?
- can people help?
Overall, try to put yourself in the position of the person reading your press release who will be judging whether or not the story is truly newsworthy. You need to show your press release to your local Red Cross fundraiser before you circulate it.
Hitting the target
Local papers are interested in a local slant to a story, because it will have more relevance to their audience.
A picture paints a thousand words and often trebles your column inches coverage. Consider sending out a good quality print in black and white or colour (depending on the publication) that illustrates your information. Check you have permission to use the image.
Your local paper has shown an interest and wants to interview you. Now what? Contact the Red Cross fundraiser in your area and let them know that you are going to be interviewed.
During your interview
During your interview, if there are any issues or topics you are not clear about, tell the journalist that you will get back to them and contact your local fundraiser for more information. Don’t feel pressurised into talking about anything you are not sure about – your fundraiser will be able to give help and advice.
The most important thing to remember is to be prepared – know what you are fundraising for and how you are going to do it. Have three key points ready that you want to get across - why you're raising money for the Red Cross, what you're doing and how much you're hoping to raise - feel free to ask the reporter what questions they are likely to ask before the interview.
And finally, if you remember the following five key points, you should be well on your way to a successful interview:
- be clear
- be upbeat
- give examples to illustrate
- avoid jargon
- concentrate on your key message.
If you are approached by your local radio or TV station, please discuss this with your local Red Cross fundraiser before you set up any interviews.
You must show your draft press release to your local Red Cross fundraiser before you circulate it. It's also a good idea to have copies of your press release at your event in case any members of the press are in attendance.
Here’s how a press release should look. If you read it through, you’ll find some handy tips for getting it right!
Embargo: If you have an embargo deadline (a time and date before which you don’t want your press release to become public), make it clear here. For example: Not for publication before 0800 hours on x date.
A snappy title
The first few lines should get the attention of the reader. Keep the introduction brief and try to make it punchy. The basic details of who, what, where, when, how and why should be in the first couple of sentences.
Try to write short, crisp paragraphs. Use clear, simple English. Avoid jargon.
"Quotes are great. You can use them to include subjective information, which is really wonderful!
It’s OK to use shortened words with apostrophes. Quotes add interest to the story, providing they sound natural and believable."
The body text, however, should remain objective and should not use shortened or abbreviated versions.
Break up the text with paragraphs. Keep it interesting.
"Ideally, a press release should be on one page if possible," said David Smith, event organiser.
"I make sure everything’s bin threw the spell chequer, but don’t completely rely on it! "
If possible, end on a high note. "We all had a good laugh," added Rhett, "when we saw the draft press release! "
Further information: every press release should have at least one contact person, preferably two. Include contact numbers and website and email addresses if applicable. You should include your local Red Cross fundraiser as a second contact in case anyone wants official verification of what you are doing.
Photo opportunity: Location, time and date of anything interesting happening that serves to illustrate the story further. For example: reporters and photographers are welcome to attend the launch of the xyz event where David Smith will be… etc.