Part II: A meeting planner’s guide to PR
Last month, I talked about the value of using public relations to publicize your events. This month, you’re going to learn how to craft the perfect press release (PR).
If you want a news article about your event to be published, you have to know how far in advance media outlets need your information. Lead time for daily newspapers can be one to two weeks; weekly publications may need materials two to four weeks in advance; and monthly publications may require materials to be submitted two to four months prior to the event. Media lists may be purchased, or do some research online to compile your own list of contact people and submission guidelines for media outlets in your target market.
What you should know:
- Press releases should be 500 or fewer words.
- Focus on one central subject. (You can write more than one PR per event.)
- You’ll need an attention-getting headline, secondary headline and interesting first sentence. Sometimes that’s all people will read, so find an interesting angle and see if you can entice people in the newsrooms to read further than that. The last paragraph should be boilerplate information about your company.
- Aim for a sixth-grade reading level, and avoid industry jargon.
- Keep your focus local. Even if you are planning an event in Boston, a newspaper in Miami or San Francisco may run an item on the event if:
- Someone well-known from their city is involved
- One of their local companies is a sponsor
- A local charity will benefit from the event
- Use the press release to explain why this event is interesting, what makes it news, or how it will affect or improve the community.
- Include all important names, dates, times, ticket information, phone numbers and Web sites, including contact information, and double-check all the information before sending.
- Having photography available (300 dpi for print, 72 dpi for Web sites) increases your chances of having a story run.
- It’s best to send PRs early in the week. Avoid sending on a Friday or over the weekend.
- Follow up with media contacts: Did they get the release? Do they have any questions? Do they need images or an interview? Would they like a press pass to attend the event?
- Keep a clip file of press coverage.
Remember, some of the best PRs do not get media coverage. Newspapers are protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution and cannot be forced to publish any material, including your PR, no matter how perfect it is.
– Jackie Thornton, M.S., CMP
Jackie Thornton, M.S., CMP, is President of Global Marketing and PR Inc., which offers event planning, marketing and public relations services. She also has taught event planning certificate courses.