It’s quite possible that despite the hours of typing, the most overused part on a journalists’ keyboard is the ‘delete’ button.
No, that’s not because we “always make mistakes”, in reality it’s what we do with a large proportion of e-mails.
Although some we permanently strike from our worldwide web records are spam, a large amount will be press releases.
There can be a number of reasons. But instead of a rant about why, I thought I’d put together a few steps on how to win our hearts and get your work on our pages.
After all, it’s about highlighting what your college is doing to stand out from the rest and showing a sense of pride in your institution.
By making your releases or statements attractive, clearly-written, easy-to-digest and brimming with information, the rest comes easily.
There is a structure to a well-written story – and it can be a good place to start with your copy. It’s not essential, but it’s by all means very helpful to us.
The first paragraph must tell us all there is to know about the story; don’t bury it in the middle. Tell it to us straight and right to the point and we’ll be interested. Also, in the main copy, shy away from using “we” or “us” as that’s what quotes are for, but I’ll come to that.
A picture, they say, is worth a thousand words. In this case, its quality can be the difference between publication or trash can. And there’s many ways of getting around it. Firstly, invest.
While a top of the range pro DSLR camera can set you back a fair few pennies, cheaper options, like the so-called “DSLRs for amateurs”, will give good results. Another tip: call your local press to pop along and take a few shots. While a specialist publication like ours may be too many miles away to make your press call, your local rag could be more than happy to oblige. They may also, with the right persuasion, provide a JPEG of their shot to send on to other publications – as long as they are guaranteed a ‘credit’ and you may have to pay for the right in such instances.
So you’ve already told us in the intro about the amazing thing at your college that you want to shout about – and us to publish. Now tell us why and beef up how amazing it is with quotes. Principals, the high-profile visitors to an event, the students, the teachers – you name it. We want to hear from them about why what it is your telling us, is good for them. And don’t forget the simple elements, like a full name and title, job and – for the students – their age and where they are from.
We know our deadlines, because we work so stringently to them. So if you’re not sure on them, ask us. And if you have something coming up in the next day or so that you think is really important, give us some notice.
We may be able to hold a space or remove something which we may deem less important. Likewise, sending us something minutes before going to press is unlikely to result in it being used – unless it’s Earth shattering news.
There is no such thing as too much detail. As a journalist, we thrive on knowing exactly what the whole situation is with a story, including the history behind it. It gives context to a story, meaning a reader can be fully informed.
And finally, this one may seem a little bit obvious, but believe it or not, some releases wing their way into our 21st century pigeonholes with no details on how best to request further information. The e-mail address it was sent from will never suffice – particularly if it gets to us right on deadline. So send us your telephone numbers with it.
This is by no means an extensive list, but a good starting point. If you’re in any doubt, don’t be afraid to ask questions.
By Nick Reinis