GCM - May 2001

Get your news in the news

News releases increase the odds for media coverage by providing a reporter or news editor with information about your event or announcement.

Robyn Horton

press release

The first step in getting your information in the media is a press release.

Key Points

{short description of image}A news release can help spread your message to the media.

{short description of image}Communicating with the media through news releases doesn't have to be difficult. Just make sure the information is newsworthy and accurate.

{short description of image}Use a standard format for writing your news release.

{short description of image}Distribute the news release in a timely fashion.

{short description of image}Follow up with a phone call to create a relationship with the media.

If standing on your course's highest tee box and yelling your most newsworthy message at the top of your lungs hasn't gained you much success in getting your message out, you might consider writing and distributing a news release. A news release can help you create a relationship with the media, as well as get your news in the news, by providing pertinent information on your course's events, employee changes and topics of interest.

Just the facts
Begin with your topic. This may be an event or announcement that you would like the media and the public to know about. A release should be short and to the point -- not more than 250 words -- easy to understand, factual, direct and accurate.

The first paragraph consists of the lead. It should grab the readers' attention so they will want to continue and read the entire release. The remaining paragraphs give the basics of your story. By its end, your news release should be able to answer six questions: who, what, when, where, why and how.

Your release will contain supporting quotes, facts and background information to expand your story and establish credibility. The final paragraph should give a brief overview of your facility, affiliated chapter or organization.

After you have sent a press release, be sure to make a follow-up phone call to confirm that the release was received and to answer any questions the media member may have.
follow-up phone call

Putting it down on paper
News releases generally have a standard appearance. They should be double-spaced and typewritten on 8 1/2 by 11 white paper (your course or chapter letterhead works best). One or two pages in length are appropriate, and using both sides of the page is acceptable. Be sure to include a contact phone number, release date and a headline. Contact information is especially important if the reporter or editor has follow-up questions. Provide as much contact information as possible, including whom to contact, their phone number and e-mail address.

If the release is more than one page, center the word "-more-" on the bottom of the first page. Center the symbol "###" or "-30-" on the bottom of the last page to show that it is the end of the release. These are standard news copy symbols and will communicate professionalism and preparation to the media.

Be sure to proofread your release, then do it again. Check for spelling, grammar, typing and factual errors. Always have someone else proofread your work to make certain the information is understandable. If appropriate, have your employer approve the release before it is distributed and provide additional quotes.

Keep in mind that the reporter or editor is likely to rewrite the release to fit the news organization's style. The Associated Press Stylebook, available at most bookstores, is a good reference for most publication styles.

Photos can add detail to your release. Make certain, however, that the photos convey the appropriate message. Candid and party atmosphere photos, though great for scrapbooks, generally aren't suitable for media purposes. Photos of club activities, award presentations and new additions to the course are acceptable.

Be sure to include a caption about what is going on in the photo along with the names and titles of persons depicted. Attach the information to the photo, but do not write on the back of the photo. Also, keep in mind that the photo may not be returned, so make copies of the print or slide if you need it.

If the news release is about an upcoming event, you should distribute the news release to the media outlets early enough that a reporter can receive it, review it and call you for additional information, if needed. If the news release is about an event that already has happened, distribute the release as soon as possible after the event. Old news rarely makes the paper.

Some news releases may be of the "evergreen" variety. That is, there is no immediate time frame for the release to be distributed. A release that discusses irrigation tips, for example, might be used by a reporter anytime over a period of months. However, a news release on the first frost would need to be sent out in early fall.

Once you have finished the release, send it to all appropriate local and/or regional media. Sports editors and business editors are most likely to be interested in your news. If you don't have a media list, a good place to get one is from your chapter media/public relations contact or your state golf association.

A press release will give TV reporters and newspaper writers the basics of your story, although they may contact you for additional information.
TV reporters

The emphasis of "news" in the term news release implies that the release can be distributed to several communications outlets. For example, your member or facility newsletter, state or regional GCSAA-affiliated chapter newsletter, and state and regional golf association publications will appreciate the information and assist in spreading your message.

The standard method for distributing news releases is by mail, but sending the information by fax or e-mail is also acceptable. Be sure to address the release directly to the appropriate editor's attention. Call beforehand to verify proper spelling, names and titles.

Follow it up
Once you've sent out your news release, make follow-up calls to see if you can answer any additional questions. Follow-up calls are most effective if you speak directly to a reporter and offer your assistance in providing information.

Don't be discouraged if your news release doesn't produce instant results, but taking the time to speak directly with the media will help establish you as a resource for future stories the reporter or editor would like to pursue.

Robyn Horton is GCSAA's communications manager.