Business Development Resources
Want to get your story out but do not have an advertising budget? You can tell your story through a short article or even a feature in a newspaper, magazine, or television or radio story that will reach thousands.
Public relations professionals know that this advertising is not free, it is "earned media". It takes planning, foresight, understanding the needs of a news editor, and an ability to write an effective news release. Getting a news release published takes effort and thought. Editors (especially in larger city newspapers and television and radio news rooms) receive thousands of news releases every month. One of the biggest reasons why most news releases are not covered is that many people do not put enough thought into them. There are, fortunately "tricks of the trade" in getting your story covered.
News releases are evaluated by the potential interest to the readers, the timeliness of the subject, and the quality, accuracy, and completeness of the writing.
Before you write your first news release take some time to frame your story. In your mind put the context of your story in part of a larger picture affecting your community would interest a news editor. Events or information that can impact local readers or viewers is an important element in making a story newsworthy or of benefit to the reader. The following subject areas that could be of interest to readers:
- Defining the new service (ratings, home performance, energy efficient mortgages) now offered and how will assist readers in lowering energy costs, helping the environment, and increasing national security.
- Introduction to Minnesota High Building Performance Partnership (Minnesota State Energy Office, Fannie Mae, RESNET and your company).
- Introduction of the ENERGY STAR Homes Program
- Introduction of home energy ratings
- Introduction of energy mortgages
- New partnerships entered into with local housing industry to foster high performance, energy efficient, affordable housing.
- Recognition of awards given by respectable organizations.
- Introduction of a web site or new features of the site.
- Positive local spin to a national issue (high natural gas prices, aiding the environment, reducing the dependence on imported oil, etc.)
- Ribbon cutting ceremonies (first rated home, first energy efficient mortgage closed, first ENERGY STAR labeled home, etc.)
Also think which section of your paper is the story most relevant to. Most papers have a "Community", Business, and a Real Estate section. These sections have their own editors. Call your local paper and find the name, fax number, and e-mail address of each section's editor. In most cases these editors are looking for good local stories.
The first necessity is to catch an editor's attention that your story is newsworthy. Generally an editor will only spend 30 seconds in reviewing a news release to determine whether it will be used.. This makes the title, and introductory paragraph vital. Take care to think of a pithy, attention-grabbing headline. Then write the first paragraph which should be a 20 - 30 word sentence summary of the story that answers the journalistic WHO?, WHAT?, WHEN?, WHERE? WHY? and HOW?
You need to keep your paragraphs short - one or two sentences. News stories are generally written in an "inverted pyramid" style with the less important information at the end of the story. Don't save your important information for your closing paragraph - editors and readers may never make it that far.
The following are useful tips in writing your news release:
- Always write in the present tense
- Ensure facts are accurate
- Be sure to check spelling, punctuation, and grammar
- Use words a reader with an 8th grade education will understand (do not use energy/building science jargon)
- Use the active not passive voice
- Be concise
Use a picture to tell your story. Readers and editors like quality photos that reinforce or illustrate a story. Be ensure to attach a caption to the photo that concisely explains more than can be readily seen. Take time in composing the caption. Captions are often the most read part of a story.
It is worth your time to contact your paper and news room to determine whether they will accept e-mail releases or require a hard copy.
If you are submitting your release by hard copy, the release should be formatted double space on 8" by 11" paper with margins set at 1". Do not exceed two pages.
Use the below format:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(Write "-30-" or "###" at the end of the page to indicate the end of the release.)
A common mistake that many make is not to follow-up a news release. Call each editor you sent the release to. They may have not received your release and the call may put your release closer to the top.