THE MECHANICS OF PUBLICITY MATERIALS
There are certain style and presentation requirements that you should observe when submitting news releases and other publicity material to the media. Here are the main points to remember:
Writing publicity materials for the media also requires a knowledge of several different formats, each of which serves a particular function.
Preparing your news release
Your release should start with a heading that gives the name and address of your organization. Instructions for the release should appear in the upper right-hand corner (e.g., release on saturday, april 25 or for immediate release). The name and telephone number (preferably both business and home numbers) of the contact person should appear at the bottom on the left side, with the date on the right. A typical news release for a special event will also identify a special speaker, celebrity or a member of your organization such as the president or event chairperson.
A well chosen headline will give the readers a quick overview of the story being communicated and pique their interest.
Your news release should be structured in what is known as an inverted pyramid to help busy editors or news directors spot the vital information easily and decide quickly whether they are interested in the story. The crucial information goes at the beginning so that editors can shorten the piece from the bottom up.
The first, or lead, paragraph provides the most important facts, generally in one or two sentences. The lead is developed in the body, generally in one or two paragraphs, giving additional information in descending order of importance. The release should end with brief paragraph that sums up or contains additional details of lesser importance.
Use the time-honoured formula to present your story: who, what, where, and when and possibly also why and how (but not necessarily in this order). Most of these points will go in the lead paragraph. Then, give prominence to the most important element (for example, the who if a well known person is involved and the what if it is an unusual or first-ever type of event). A good news release will sound as if its has been lifted from a newspaper.
Keep your news release clear, concise and brief. Use simple, direct language, relatively short sentences and paragraphs, and active verbs. Use adjectives and adverbs sparingly. Make every word count and give it punch.
Ideally, a news release is a single page; it should never be longer than two pages. If your release goes to the second page, number the pages and put more at the end of the first page and add a few words at the top of the next page that identifies the release. Wherever possible, end the page with a complete paragraph. To indicate the end of the release, add end, # # # or -30 - in the centre of the page as the last line.
If more than one major event is planned, prepare a different release for each event and send them separately to your media contacts.
It is a good idea to read your news release aloud to test it for an on-air reading. Make sure there are no words that are difficult to pronounce or awkward phrases. Ideally, a news release written specifically for the broadcast media is desirable to ensure that it is written for the voice rather than the eye (i.e., has a conversational tone).
Depending on the type of announcement, a photograph might increase your chances for publicity. For example, a 5x7 inch black and white glossy of volunteer award winners, with a caption identifying the individuals from left to right, might be effective when sending an announcement to the local print media.
A news release should normally arrive about seven to ten days prior to the event.
Preparing your media advisory
A media advisory presents only the basic facts in a one-page, double-spaced format:
Since a media advisory is intended to alert the media to an up-coming event or special week, it should be sent out well in advance (about four weeks). If you are not following up with a news release, you should send out a second notice about two weeks before the event or special week.
Preparing a feature release
A feature release is creative writing with an informational or editorial purpose. An effective feature release requires a sense of the dramatic. The story should be told with style and verbal impact.
The headline must capture the reader's attention. A strong opening is as important here as it is in a news release, and so is the ending. The piece opens with an interesting paragraph and then develops the theme through the body of the text. The final paragraph is more than a summary; it is the clincher. A one-liner, a powerful quote or a short anecdote can make either a strong beginning or a strong close.
A typical feature story about an award winner, such as the recipient of a distinguished volunteer award, would include information on the person's history with your organization, and community involvement, as well as on family and/or professional life. The text should be accompanied by a 5x7 inch black and white photograph of the individual with a typed caption. If possible, this should be an action shot showing the individual volunteering.
Never send the very same feature story to competing newspapers or competing stations. Rewrite each article with a different slant and with quotations by different people. Since each article is then unique, you are able to mark each one as exclusive to (name of media outlet).
A feature release that is tied to a specific time frame, such as National Volunteer Week, should arrive at least two weeks ahead of time. In the case of a follow-up story that focuses on the success of an event, it should be hand-delivered or faxed immediately after the event.
Placing PSA's to your best advantage
A public service announcement (PSA) is usually run in off hours since advertising is sold for primetime periods. Nevertheless, they still reach a considerable audience, and competition for airtime is keen. Since PSAs are short, some stations prefer to have their own announcers read them instead playing tapes.
Before you begin, it is best to check with the public service director or program director of your radio and television stations to find out whether they have any special policies about PSAs. Some stations reserve PSA time for on-going activities and public education efforts, and cover one-time events in a community calendar; others will use PSAs for single events as well.
Choose one main point and make sure that everything in the script supports, clarifies or elaborates on the main thrust. Try to find a strong lead that grabs the audience's attention. Conclude by telling your audience what you want them to do: come to your event, call you, think about the contribution that volunteers make, etc.
PSAs can be dramatic and do not necessarily follow the who, what, where, when, why rules of the news release.
Timing must be exact. Scripts should be tested aloud with a stopwatch. Here's a guide to follow for length:
Since not all stations use all of these lengths for their spots, you should find out each station's requirements. If a number of formats are used, it is a good idea to write spots of several different lengths to increase your chances for airtime. Always indicate the word count and the length at the beginning of the script.
When there are specific dates, such as with National Volunteer Week, these should be clearly noted on the PSA script and in the covering letter. Mark the date that you wish the announcement to be begin and the date at which it is to be stopped (e.g., Use between April 20 and May 3, 1992 or Use until May 3, 1992).
A printed script for on-the-air reading must be short, clear and easy to read. Use simple, descriptive words. Provide a phonetic spelling for unusual names in parentheses following the names. Double or triple-space the text for easier reading. Print one PSA to a page using letterhead. Read you draft out loud to make sure it reads smoothly. You may use contractions (e.g., don't, can't).
Include your organization's name and address and the contact person's name and telephone number on all materials. Give a brief title to the PSA.
Since radio stations have well defined audiences, they offer the opportunity for highly selective and specific PSAs. You may wish to consider a variety of different versions for different stations.
When you submit your PSAs, be sure to include a brief, personalized covering letter. Explain why the campaign, event or service you are coordinating is important, how it meets the needs of the people in the station's listening area, and when it is taking place. Include any background information you have prepared.
Deliver your PSA script well in advance of the date that you would like it broadcast. Since the time required to process PSAs varies from station to station (usually from two to four weeks), it is best to verify the lead time required.
Community Calendar Listings
Community calendar items are much shorter than PSAs. They usually running for 10 to 15 seconds and provide only the key facts. Since the lead time will vary from one to eight weeks, depending on the station's policy and size, it is necessary to check with the stations to find out their requirements.
SAMPLES OF PUBLICITY MATERIALS
|CONTACT:||Mary Jane Doe (555-4321)|
|TO BE AIRED:||April 20 to May 2|
National Volunteer Week 1992
Did you know that April 26th to May 2nd is National Volunteer Week?
During this special week, communities across Canada say thanks to their volunteers.
Why celebrate National Volunteer Week?
Because volunteers are the lifeline of Anytown the vital link that holds our community together.
Without volunteers, so many programs and services upon which Anytown relies would simply cease to exist.
So, let's all celebrate National Volunteer Week!
... A public service of [station name].
Volunteers they really are the vital links that hold this community together. Let's celebrate National Volunteer Week!
This is National Volunteer Week. Thank you, volunteers! You make Anytown a truly great place to live.
April 26th to May 2nd is National Volunteer Week. Let's all say a big thanks to Anytown's many volunteers!
It's National Volunteer Week a chance for Anytown to thank all those who volunteer their time and services.
This is National Volunteer Week. Let's take time to thank Anytown's volunteers for the many services they provide.
It's National Volunteer Week. Let's have a big round of applause for Anytown's many dedicated volunteers!
Who are the vital links that hold our community together? Volunteers! Why? Because they provide so many essential services that Anytown depends on. So, let's celebrate our community's volunteers. It's National Volunteer Week!
It's National Volunteer Week. Over 5,000 Anytownians do volunteer work. Stand up and be counted. For information on activities during National Volunteer Week or on how to become a volunteer, call the Anytown Volunteer Centre at 555-2222.
Did you know that April 26 to May 2 is a very special week honouring over 5,000 of Anytown's citizens? It's National Volunteer Week a time to thank all those who volunteer their services to make our community a great place to live.
How many volunteers does it take to make a difference in someone's life? Just one! Imagine the impact that 13 million volunteers have on the quality of life in Canada. It's National Volunteer Week. Think about it!
Volunteers are people who care enough to invest their time, their talents and their energy to help make Anytown the best community possible. They work in food banks; they tutor children; they organize fundraisers for charity. And, they do so much more! During National Volunteer Week, think about what volunteers mean to this community.
Because an elderly woman has a special friend to share her life. Because a disabled boy has gained self-esteem playing hockey on a community team. Because a mother is now able to read stories to her children. These are just a few of the reasons why volunteers are so vitally important to life in Anytown. During National Volunteer Week, let's offer a public thanks to Anytown's volunteers.
Rain or shine, Anytown is going to have a big party to honour its volunteers on April 26. This is the opening event of a 7-day celebration of National Volunteer Week. Are you a volunteer? Are you interesting in becoming one? Please join us on Saturday, April 26 at 2:00 p.m. at the Community Hall. For more information, contact the Anytown Volunteer Centre at 555-2222.
NATIONAL VOLUNTEER WEEK
I. THE ECONOMIC IMPACT OF VOLUNTEERISM
II. CHARACTERISTICS OF VOLUNTEERS
SOURCES: Economic Dimensions of Volunteer Work in Canada (Secretary of State, 1990) and Giving Freely: Volunteers in Canada (Statistics Canada, 1989), both of which are based on the results of the 1987 National Survey of Volunteer Activity of Canada.
CURRENT ISSUES AND TRENDS IN VOLUNTEERISM
SOURCE: Based on Canadian Volunteerism in the 1990s (Canadian Association of Volunteer Bureaux and Centres, February 1991).
Do you want to reprint part of this book?
Charities and non-profit groups are welcome to copy and adapt portions of this book for internal use, on condition that you give full credit to the contributors. Written permission isn't required. However, the Directorate would find it useful to know how this material is used, so please write:Community Partnership Program
This publication is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information on the subject matter covered. Please use it with the understanding that the author and the contributors are not engaged in rendering legal or accounting advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, consult a competent professional. The analysis contained herein represents the opinions of the author and contributors. In no way should it be construed as either official or unofficial policy of any government body.
Published by the
Voluntary Action Directorate
Department of Multiculturalism and Citizenship
Design: Douglas McKercher
© Her Majesty the Queen
as represented by the
Minister of Supply and Services, 1992.
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