Getting coverage in local newspapers

Local newspapersThere has been much talk about the decline of local newspapers however they still very much have a role to play in supporting local businesses. In fact, local newspapers remain by far the most trusted and popular source of local news, according to a YouGov survey. In this survey 63 per cent of respondents said they heard about local news from local newspapers, by far the highest performing source. When asked how trustworthy they find various news sources, 64 per cent of respondents said they found local newspapers trustworthy. This compares favourably to national newspapers where just 27 per cent found them a trustworthy news source.

Be clear what you want to achieve

Before you even start writing a press release here are three simple steps to follow:

  • Be clear what you want to achieve
  • Get to know the newspapers content
  • Decide what your key messages are

You may have an event you wish to publicise, a local charity you are supporting or want to raise awareness of an award you have just won. Whatever it is be clear what you want to achieve and what the call to action is, whether it be driving traffic to your website, generating phone calls or people registering for an event.

Get to know the newspaper content

Buy two or three issues of the newspaper and get a really good feel for the type of content they cover. My local paid for paper is called the West Sussex County Times and has a whole section called People News which provides a great opportunity for residents to submit community stories.

There may be obvious sections where your story could feature, such as in the business section or in entertainment and events. It is important your story matches the content of the newspaper. Local papers are unlikely to run stories that are a blatant sales pitch for a product, service or company.

Decide what your key messages are

It really is worth investing the time in deciding what your key messages are. Suggest you develop between three to five key messages and it is essential these form the basis of your press release. Once you have finished writing your release it must be very clear to the reader what the main points are you want to convey.

Drafting the press release

Here are a few tips to think about:

  • Write an impactful and interesting headline;
  • Have a short first paragraph summarising what the story is about (the who, what, where, how and why);
  • Make sure you use plain English and no industry jargon;
  • Keep sentences and paragraphs short;
  • Include a quote from a suitable spokesperson;
  • Include a call to action if relevant;
  • Don’t make it too lengthy. I keep my local press releases between 250 to 300 words.

A good quality photo helps

You don’t need to be a professional photographer to take photos suitable for local newspapers. Try to find an interesting angle or try shooting from above or below your subject. Think about the background and how the picture is lit. I take loads of pictures knowing there will be one that will do the trick.

Making contact with the paper

A good place to start is visiting the papers website for contact details as well as the by lines of articles within the paper. If you are not sure who to send the release through to then call the newspaper. If you can get a named journalist and their contact details then even better. Do follow up with a phone call a few days later. If the newspaper decides not to publish the press release then don’t hesitate to find out why – it will also give you an opportunity to discuss other ideas they might be interested in.