RAO Hot Topics Blog Series:
Effective Press Releases and Media Relations
Erin Lawrimore, University of North Carolina-Greensboro, SAA RAO Steering Committee Member
A key to gaining media attention for your archival work is effective media relations. Inviting local reporters who cover education, cultural heritage, or history-related topics for a meet-up or tour of the archives is a great way to establish a relationship. With a relationship in place, press releases will carry a bit more clout.
Even with an established relationship, however, you need to make sure that your press release is a good one. Here are a few tips for ensuring your press release will catch the attention of a busy journalist:
· Be sure that what you have to say is really newsworthy and impactful. Don’t flood reporters’ inboxes with notes about every event, activity, or acquisition.
· Keep your release short and factual. Aim for 500 words or less (definitely keep it to one page!), and include links to your website for additional information.
· Focus on your opening sentence - your sales pitch. It needs to contain all of your critical information (who, what, when, where), and it needs to convince the busy reporter to read on.
· Don’t forget to include contact information (name, email, and telephone number)!
Think about reporters’ deadlines and schedules before emailing a press release. For instance, many print and television reporters will appreciate releases early in the morning as opposed to the afternoon. Print magazine journalists typically plan out feature stories months in advance of publication. Be sure to send your press release at the optimal time for the particular media and event.
Finally, if a reporter does report on your event or activity, follow up with a “thank you.” Let him know how the event went or what the lasting impact of the activity has been. This will give the reporter a sense of how you fit in to the greater community – your impact and influence. Also, this can be an incentive to report again when the next big story pops up!