News to you, news to us


Deep commitment to a business or cause often creates single-mindedness in a person. As a public relations professional, one of my most frustrating tasks is attempting to convince such people that the vast majority of the globe is unaware of the focus of their efforts, and most are perfectly content to remain so.

I’m sure that sounds cynical, but a firm grasp on reality is needed to develop a marketing/public relations plan that doesn’t waste time, energy and money on efforts doomed to fall flat. One such effort repeatedly misused by businesses and non-profits is the “blanket” press release sent to local media.

Unless a large number of people are affected, a change important to you, your staff, customers, clients and donors most likely is not news for the local newspaper. Reporters and editors receive announcements regularly that are destined for the email trash bin because the interested audience is so extremely narrow, the information is essentially irrelevant.

This is why it is so important to develop a database of your stakeholders to communicate with them directly and purposefully about your goings on. Making announcements in a press release format is fine so long as your recipient list is targeted for your niche audience. Facebook ads and boost posts can be targeted to users by location, age, gender, and many other criteria. If you are a business and want to reach a specific geographic area, consider using ZIP codes and the postal service’s Every Door Direct Mail service. Distill the message down to a few seconds and record it as a video for YouTube and other social media forums. If it’s a new product you are offering, take an attractive photo and post to Instagram, Snapchat and/or Facebook.

Deciding what information to send to the local paper requires some thought, and most of all, getting to know the publication: what do they cover? how frequently? who are the reporters/editors? Consider:

Your board of directors has a new chairperson and/or members. The entire list of new personnel would be something of interest to your stakeholders, so use it on your website, in your newsletter, etc. Unless your non-profit has a big footprint in your community, chances are the local newspaper will only be interested in the story if local residents are involved. Share only the information of local interest. Make it brief, and be sure to send it to the business reporter directly. (Don’t forget the boilerplate.)

When does your information merit a release to the news desk? When it has the potential to affect a large number of people in your community. For example:

  • As a way to attract new customers, you’ve decided your hardware store will be a collection point to recycle paint and batteries. Unless you charge for the drop off, this is a public service. Depending on the size of your community and newspaper, this could be released, as a very brief item, to the news or business desks.
  • There’s a boil-water advisory in your county that has been in effect for several days. All the stores have run out of bottled water but you are assured a shipment is arriving at your store tomorrow. This is news. Email or call the news desk/editor.
  • A well-known musician has agreed to headline a concert for your non-profit. Email or call the news desk/editor.

Large metro area newspapers usually have sections in their print and/or online editions for neighborhoods and small communities. Find out what the deadlines are for your special section and who the reporter is so your news has the best chance of getting seen by someone who cares. Online submissions of news and news tips are very common today. Most will give you a word/character count limit to help you be concise. Be sure to devote some of those characters to your web address or phone number.

If your restaurant is expanding to another location or a larger more diverse menu, sure, send a press release to the business reporter, but for something that big, invest in advertising. Outside of your own assets, that’s about the only way to guarantee your news will be shared in its entirety.

If you are having problems figuring out which media is best for your message, give me a call. I’d love to help.


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