Prior to taking up my role with S3 Solutions, I worked as a journalist in all six counties in Northern Ireland. Since returning home from the University of Stirling in 2011, I worked for several weekly newspapers, two radio stations and provided PR and media support to a range of organisations.
The old adage in journalism is that a ‘good journalist needs good contacts’ and for 6 years I was fortunate enough to build strong relations with a range of people from local charities, schools, sports clubs and local councillors.
Journalists are always very open and receptive to stories, good news and community interest articles. Many of them have daily or weekly deadlines to meet and they have space to fill, whether that be on the airwaves, on their website or on page in the newspaper.
Some of the tips and advice listed below will help you to promote your organisation through the local media and build up a good level of rapport with your local journalists.
Be succinct – Many journalists are working to tight word limits or length of sound bites. When putting together an article think about the ‘5 Ws’ – Who, What, Where, When and Why? If you do not feel confident about writing, think about putting it all down in bullet points. If you can add in a quote from a key person involved in the article, this sometimes puts a face to the story.
Open strongly – Your opening paragraph or introduction should say what you want to achieve from the article. “Joe Bloggs FC have secured £250,000 of funding from ABC Funding to install floodlights at their home ground at Joe Bloggs Street.” This will catch the attention of the reader and make them want to scan through the rest of the article.
Stay balanced – Yes, it is important to be positive and talk about the good things you are doing but please don’t make outlandish claims. Little Jimmy may very well be a talented footballer but giving him the tag of the ‘next Messi’ is not constructive!
Check with other stakeholders – Keep connected with others involved in your story or event. If you have secured funding, make sure you speak to the funders and ask for their permission (after all it is their money!). If you are wanting a photographer to cover something like a football tournament, charitable event – make sure all participants give their consent for photographs to be published.
Add colour – Newspapers in particular are always very welcoming with regards to photographs being attached with their article/story. Try to avoid using a smartphone as a camera unless you have no other option. Talk within your group/committee about someone who has an interest in photography who could help with sending in a high quality image.
Contact information – It is crucial that you include contact information on your email to the media. This ensures that if they have any further questions or would like to add more information to the story they can get in touch with you as soon as possible.
Remain connected – Keep in contact with the journalist who has been looking after your story. Why not ask them to follow your organisation on social media so they can keep up to date with the latest news. If you are a sports club, get in to a habit of sending in weekly match reports and build up a level of rapport with the journalist, believe me they will appreciate your efforts!