You’ve decided to take part in our clean air week of action – fantastic! Getting your activity into the local press is a great way to amplify our calls for Clean Air Everywhere.
So how do you put on an action that will get noticed? And how can you get the local media to cover it.
This guide will help you develop an action that will appeal to the media, explain how to write a press release to tell them about it, and then how to undertake an interview once they’re interested.
There are certain hooks that are always more likely to get the media interested in what you do. For example:
- Something new
- Facts and stats
- An interesting picture
- Local interest
- Human interest
- Shock/Breaking news
- Something that’s quirky/different
So when thinking about your event:
Can you find facts and statistics to show how air pollution is impacting people locally? This page will help get you started. Our upcoming report Data, Dirt and Danger: How people are using citizen science to tackle Britain’s dirty air will also be packed full of information you can use.
Can you create an interesting visual or stunt that would make an interesting picture and grab the newspapers attention? Check out these examples for inspiration.
Do you have an individual who can talk about how air pollution has impacted on their, or their family’s health, to put a human face to the problem?
Do you have a local celebrity who could attend your event? Will your local MP come and have their picture taken at your event?
An event which has one or two of these thing increases the chances of getting the local press along, and makes it easier to write your press release.
Perfect Press Releases
So, you’ve decided on your event. Now to tell the journalists about it.
Journalists get emailed hundreds of press releases every day, they will scan through their email subject lines and only bother reading the ones that look the most interesting.
Your two priorities are to make yours simple and exciting.
Imagine the press release as a pyramid; the journalist will initially take two seconds only to scan the headline (which you should also use as the subject of your email), if that is clear and interesting they will scan the first paragraph, only if that’s interesting, will they read further. Journalists will also scan the press release for quotes, as these are the ‘juicy’ opinion bits that they normally print in the paper.
- Length: Keep press releases short – preferably no longer that one side of A4
- Keep it simple: Avoid technical jargon or complicated language. The press release should be able to be understood by someone who knows nothing about the subject.
- Headline: Your top message should form your headline. Keep it short and catchy but give a clear idea of the story.
- Opening paragraph: Expand the headline to make your first paragraph. It should answer the basic questions – Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How
- Next paragraph: This should expand on the first, bringing in some context and one or two sentences of relevant background information
- Quote: The quote is usually the only part of your press release that will appear directly in the paper. Try and write as if a real person was speaking – reading your quote out loud will help with this. Keep sentences short and punchy. If they only print one sentence about your campaign or event, what should it say?
- Acronyms: Never use acronyms; always write out the name of something in full. Friends of the Earth should never be shortened to FOE.
- Photo call: Describe what a journalist will be able to photograph, the more exciting the picture the more likely they will send along a photographer, and let them know exactly where and how to find you.
Your press release should also include:
- A date of release at the top, usually ‘immediate release’ on the day you send it out. Embargoes should be imposed only when strictly necessary.
- A contact name, email and phone number of someone who knows about the story, who will be available to answer journalist’s queries and organise or conduct interviews.
- Notes to the editor – any additional information should go in notes at the end. These should be used sparingly and only when the detail is essential.
- Follow up: Once you have emailed your press release, if you have time follow it up with a phone call to the journalist. Tell them a little bit about the story, ask them if they’ve seen the release, and then see if they are interested in covering it or sending a photographer. Be friendly and don’t take up to much of their time.