By Marie-Claude Stockl
Executive Director, The Horse Institute
With all the expenses that go along with promoting your business, you may not have the resources to hire a publicist. But you can get good stories in the press, if you follow three basic ground rules. OK, let’s get started.
#1 What Makes a Good Story?
Reporters get more releases than they have time to review. As they scan through your materials, they have only three questions on their mind: So what? Who cares? What’s in it for me? They want a story that draws the reader in, or will keep the viewer or listener tuned it. They care about providing value to their audience. It’s that simple.
For example, if you announce that you are bringing Equine Assisted Learning to the area, you are missing the “grabber”, and your release lands in the circular file faster than you can say neigh. It won’t work because it’s all about you, not their audience. And it does not answer the three key questions we talked about.
But, if you turn the story around and announce that the estimated 1,350 veterans who reside in Greene, Columbia, and Dutchess counties can now have access to an innovative program that helps them deal with PTSD…now you have their attention!
The more you can localize the story, the better your chance to get coverage.
Here are a couple of news angles you might consider:
1. You are holding a free demo for the community.
2. You have a new program, such as a new leadership retreat.
3. You are doing a team-building seminar for a local group (make sure that you seek permission to invite the media from your client).
Weeks ahead, contact the “calendar editor” in each local media outlet and give them the 5 Ws: What? When? Where? Who? Why?
A few days before the event, send your release to the “news assignment editor” or the “editor” in smaller newspapers. Look at the masthead of the publication or visit their website for contact information.
The day before, follow-up by phone. Introduce yourself and let the reporters know you will be on hand to assist them.
Never miss a photo opp. Print and television reporters want to know: where can they point the camera? Is it visual? Fortunately for us, horses are almost as appealing to the media as babies and puppies. Also, photos can continue to build your image through blog posts, sharing on social media or to clients and partners. Don’t forget to ask participants to sign a print or video release form..
#2 How to craft a press release that will grab the attention of local media
Editors are used to a specific format. You can visit our website to see examples. Here are a few tips:
· Put the contact information on top of the page. Provide a valid phone number and e-mail address.
· Note that your headline should be between 80 and 170 characters. The “catchier” the better.
· Write the copy of the release in an inverted pyramid, just as reporters write their own story: the short story first, followed by short paragraphs (1-3 sentences).
· Be objective and avoid direct address such as I, me, you, your, our, etc.
· End the release with your “boiler plate”, the short summary of your business and what it stands for.
#3 Do's and don’ts when speaking to reporters
· Prepare for your interviews by first choosing 3 messages (no more) that you want to see in print or on television.
· Practice saying them out loud in as few words and sounding as much like “you” as possible. Reporters want sound bites.
· Repeat those messages 3 times in the course of the interview. Don’t hesitate to “flag” the important points, i.e., “What’s important here is…”
· If you get a “tough” question, answer it, without repeating the negatives. Phrase it in your own words, then bridge to one of your messages. As a reporter once said: “It’s not the question that does the damage, it’s the answer.”
Good luck, and remember, “All glory comes from daring to begin!”
Marie-Claude Stockl co-founded The Horse Institute in 2005. CBS, NPR and The New York Times have covered their leadership and team development programs, under “Press” at www.thehorseinstitute.com