In a bid to get me blogging again, I’ve decided to do shorter snappier ones around the stuff that people always want to know. So here goes: one of the most common questions raised at the media training I run (for local charities and community groups) is what would a good press release look like?
THE FORMAT: The 9 step process
- Title/Subject line: Make it catchy; but remember it’s the local journalist’s job to develop the headline (often for search/space reasons and their requirements keep changing).
- Introduction: About 28 words max, main point of story, tell it like a story
- Second Paragraph: Expansion on introductory paragraph.
- Third Paragraph: Strong quote, human, emotional. Common local journalists’ joke is ‘no-one reads beyond the third paragraph.
- Fourth Paragraph: Not many people read beyond the third paragraph
- Call to action: link back to your website.
- Contact information
- Notes to editors: Detailing what you do.
- Photographs: Ideally six/have a prize landscape Twitter one.
Other stuff that definitely helps:
- Grab the local journalists’ attention: put the main point of the story in the introduction.
- Do the work for the journalists: prepare a strong introduction, quote and photograph (landscape please).
- Get the word count right. 125 words minimum for Google. 350 is normal length of a page lead (between 250-450).
- Be informal. Tell the story as if you’re talking to someone.
- Avoid jargon and clichés. Cuts off communication.
- Keep sentences short.
- Be honest: don’t over-egg who you are.
- Don’t overstate: avoid saying this is new when it’s not brand new – that’s just plain cheeky and it won’t win you journalist friends because it really annoys them.
Good luck. If you want to know more, why not join us at our next media training event. We’re a friendly lot, keen to make where we live better, stronger and kinder.
Each and everyone of us can get our story into our local paper if we stick to a few simple rules.
THE most important is to offer local journalists the stories they want.
Stop for a moment and think about a story you remember from your local paper.
Did yours fit into one of these common story types?
- The hero (eg vulnerable young person defies huge odds).
- Tragedy (bureaucratic incompetence results in an older couple taking their own lives).
- Conflicts on funding/threat of closure (young people’s charities dumped by local council cost-cutting).
- Organisation bashings (local Chief Executive pick-pockets public funds).
- Local campaigns to improve neighbourhoods (push for safe pedestrian crossing to stop future fatalities).
If you frame your story around one of these five story types, you’re off to a flying start.
Next time we’ll step into a local journalist’s shoes and see how we can help make their lives a little easier and make sure our story gets published.
If you would like to know more about how to effectively engage with your local media to fund-raise, campaign and get more volunteers; then please do join me at the next local media workshop. You can find out more here.
Glad to report that the brand new Mental Health Carers Campaign Group in Reading (Berkshire) is now truly up and running. So that’s one New Year’s Resolution that can be ticked off the list. Getting support from some organisations was unexpectedly a little more challenging than I might have imagined. But what definitely helped open doors was:
- Engaging people with our vision and connecting this with their priorities. Having simple messages highlighting the issues that really matter to us (mental health carers) and using our words and stories.
- Developing a strong influencing strategy and focusing on the group’s key campaigns for the year ahead definitely helped focus minds in meetings with the NHS and the local authority.
- Clarifying what organisations want from the campaign group. Boundary issues are always a bit tricky at the beginning of any new project (it’s very easy to tread on toes) but I really believe it helps if you’re honest and open about how people can help you; and what you can and can’t realistically do for them. There’s nothing more trust-depleting that over-promising.
- Promoting your personal credibility. This always touches on my own carer (and professional) experience, being well-linked in with other mental health carers and influencers and staying positive whatever happens.
If you’ve found this useful please do drop us a line or share it with others. Please do follow me on Twitter @businesses4good.
Some useful mental health carer links
Mental Health Foundation
Royal College of Psychiatrists
- “What matters most is that we learn from living.” (Doris Lessing)
Have you noticed how much easier life is when you’re optimistic? That dark cloud lifts. The birds start singing. Fell into one of those sinking “Is it worth it?” moments mid-week about a new campaign group I’d recently set up. Challenges seemed to be coming fast and furious. In a bid to get to a better place reached for my Get Yourself Happy List. It brought back a spring in my step and a smile on my face. Here goes, remember:
- Your vision (for the project).
- Your life values.
- What continues to inspire you.
- What you’ve learnt and done so far (with the project).
- Change is possible (even if you’re kind of doubting it at the moment).
- People can do great things together (Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King).
The challenge is remembering why you’re doing something, why it’s important to you.
Some useful reads
Optimism health benefits
45 Benefits of optimism
If you’ve found this helpful, please do share it with other people. I’d love to hear what you think if you have a little free time.
“The literature of social movements suggests that the prudent choice of frames, and the ability to effectively contest the opposition’s frames [re-frame], lie at the heart of successful policy advocacy.” Framing Public Issues Toolkit
Have you ever noticed how the mainstream media frames people with mental health issues as violent and unpredictable? A common media myth: people with a mental illness are more likely to be a victim of violence; and are more dangerous to themselves than they are to others.
8 useful things to know about issues framing
- It’s a way of structuring or presenting information into messages (words, metaphors and images) that can influence how people think about an issue. The infamous War on Terror is a classic example.
- It aims to simplify reality by shaping people’s assumptions and perceptions.
- A good frame engages the listeners’ values and emotions and it’s easy to remember.
- It’s packaged to encourage certain interpretations and to discourage others.
- For political purposes, framing often presents facts in such a way that implicates a problem that is in need of a solution.
- In a political context issue framing means presenting an issue in a way that’s going to get the biggest buy-in.
- Frames are powerful because most of us have internalized them from the media so they’re second nature to us.
- Some people call it spin.
If you’ve found this post valuable, please do share it with others.
Public Affairs Tip: Know your outputs from your outcomes.
How would you feel if someone asked you to develop an engagement/public affairs plan? Would you know where to start? Squirm? Lose sleep? It can happen to the best of us. Anyway, this simple three-step guidance is here to help re-assure those who might fret at the thought. No more night sweats for you. Calm’s the word.
❶ Where do you want to get to? Be brave.
- Build a community of advocates to raise awareness about . . .
- Kick start a new conversation around . . .
- Create more positive media coverage so that . . .
- Extend reach to key decision makers/influencers/opinion-formers which would include . . . .
- Become famous as . . .
- Create business opportunities with . . .
❷ Where are you now? Be honest.
- Who are you engaging with at the moment?
- Are there key audiences you’re targeting?
- Who are they and why?
- Do people really know what your organisation does, what it does and why?
- How do you know that? (evidence)
- Has your public profile changed over the last couple of years (got stronger/weaker)?
- How do you know that?
❸ What does success look like? Be clear.
- How are you going to measure your outputs and outcomes; and evaluate success?
Outputs are the products, services or facilities that result from your activities.
Outcomes are the benefits and changes that result from your activities.
If we take the idea of building a community of advocates to raise awareness as where we want to get to, then:
The outputs might be:
- The number of advocates you’ve managed to recruit.
- The number of advocates who are MPs, journalists, councillors etc.
- The number of internal advocates who have been trained in effective messaging.
And the outcomes might be:
- A better understanding of . . .
- Improved quality of life for your clients.
- Improved experience for . . .
If you’re interested in knowing more about public affairs strategy, then why not take a look at two CIPR Excellence Public Affair winners: Guide Dogs Dog Attacks Campaign and Fair Fuel UK Campaign
I hope you’ve found this useful. If you have any thoughts, reflections, ideas, insights please do get in touch.
PUBLIC AFFAIRS TIP: Be clear about where you’re heading. Objectives, strategy then tactics.
INDULGE ME. Imagine you’re out and about networking and you come across someone who says she’ a public affairs professional (me). What pops into your mind? Perhaps a faint whiff of lobbying or campaigning or public relations? Yep, true. And perhaps you see Big Ben or council meetings or party political conferences bursting into view. Yep, also true.
BUT what we’re really about is helping you:
- Engage more effectively with your key audiences, whether they’re the local community, media, government, statutory or voluntary bodies.
- Build strong alliances by working together and keeping supporters happy.
- Promote your expertise with fresh messages that connect with people’s everyday lives.
So that you can:
- Increase the effectiveness and efficiency of your services and products.
- Ensure a high degree of brand awareness and perception among influencers, decision makers and funders that matter to you.
- Draw down additional funding so you can grow and prosper.
If you’d like to know more about how I can help you achieve your engagement objectives for the future, please do drop me a line.