Local newspapers are sometimes overlooked when it comes to publicity campaigns. But they can be very valuable. Here’s our tips for gaining local publicity – and some things to watch out for…
Getting your local event into your local paper
Unfortunately these days it is often not enough to simply expect your local paper will turn up to your event. Over the past few years many local papers have fallen victim to huge cutbacks and so simply don’t have the staff to cover local news stories as they did in the past. Because of this, if you want publicity you need to be proactive yourself…
* Although many local papers have forms on their websites for you to submit stories on, it’s best to send an email to a named person. So ring the publication and ask for the news editor. Then ask who to send the story to – there might well be a reporter designated for your area, for example.
* Even if you end up having a chat on the phone about your story, always follow it up with the main details in an email. If you are asked to send something in, restrict it to under 600 words. Stick to the main points – where, when, why, who. Don’t forget to include contact details such as a daytime telephone number. If a reporter wants more on your story they can follow it up – at the same time if you have given all the information, they can form a report from that.
* Always send copy with a photo. Stories stand a much better chance of being printed or gaining a decent show if there is a photo with it. So, if you will be doing a book signing to promote your novel send a photo of you with your book. If you are holding a raffle at your local school, send a photo of some of the children with the main raffle prizes – and so on. Always try to include people in your photos – ie: don’t just send a photo of the school with no people in it…
* A day or so before you hope your article is published, ring or email and just ask politely if the story is due to appear.
* If your story does appear well done! Don’t forget to send a follow up for the next published edition of the paper. So, you signed 100 books at your book signing or your raffle raised thousands of pounds for the school playing fields – that way you can gain more publicity.
* If your story did not make the paper, or the expected local paper photographer does not materialise to your event, then simply ensure you take photos on the day yourself. Then send your photos with a 600 word overview of your day. Often these pieces will still make the paper, even if your initial approach did not, especially if you have provided a variety of clear high quality photos.
Local papers survive on very tiny budgets and so rarely is there any payment for stories.
Writing your copy
* When writing a piece for your local paper keep it short and simple – also stick to the facts. ‘A school raffle raised £2000 needed to refurbish the playground ‘ is fine – if the reporter wants more, he can ring you. Include quotes. ‘We were lucky it was such a sunny afternoon. Everyone enjoyed the day,’ said the organiser, tells it how it was. Incidentally the organiser or person you quote should have his or her full name in the copy. And ensure you put in all the details. It might sound obvious but you should also say when the raffle happened, where it took place, how many people attended and how much money was made.
* If you are gaining publicity for your business, avoid sticking it in the first paragraph as it is simply far too obvious. Don’t write your piece as an advert – this is an editorial so the fact the raffle was held at your garden centre or shop should be put in the copy as normal and not puffed in the first sentence. However, do include a line at the bottom of your copy, which says your business credentials – for example, your garden centre is one of the largest in the area and is a family run business (whichever details you want in) as that way the information is likely to remain in (and not be subbed out…)
* Keep photos simple too – a good photo of one or two people with raffle prizes is better than a crowd and more likely to be printed.
* Sounds obvious – but photos must be in colour!
* Take high quality photos. Low resolution photos can be difficult to print in a paper – in fact even today’s mobile phones take good photos. Just ensure the setting is on high or best quality with the highest number of pixels. When emailing photos, do not make them smaller to send. Instead, email one high quality photo to the paper at a time.
* Do not include dozens of photos with your copy – a few great quality colour photos are perfect.
* Ensure you have the permission of any parent of any child under the age of 16 before taking their photo and ensure the parent is happy for their child’s photo to appear in a paper.
* Give the names and ages of everyone in the photos, clearly labelled going left to right in the photo.
* Caption your photo. Say what it is a photo of and who.
* Photos you include should have people in them – don’t just send a photo of a building for example (unless it is part of the story and even then, it should still have a person in your pic.)
* Only put up photos that belong to you. For example if you have taken them, then they belong to you. But if they are photos taken by a friend, then they belong to him or her and you should ask their permission first.
Gaining more publicity
* Once you have made a contact at a paper, continue to send him or her any stories. Local papers are often happy to print stories of job promotions within your business – remember, even small mentions are getting your business name out there.
* Take your story to all the local papers in the area. Unlike national newspaper and magazines, local papers are not so concerned about exclusivity and will often print the same story – but just ensure you send your story out to everyone at the same time (no-one will want to print the same story that was in their rival’s paper last week.)
* Don’t forget your local BBC and independent radio and TV stations. They are also always on the look out for stories from their local area. Many areas now have local Twitter accounts or Facebook pages too.
Create your own local publicity
* Suggest you write a one-off column or piece for your paper on a subject that is topical locally. Although often not paid, local papers will often allow you to give a plug for your business at the end in return.
* Think of your own ideas for publicity. For example, if you own a bakery, why not write about the top bestsellers? Do the fairy cakes always sell best in your town? If you are a florist, which are the most popular bouquets? These can make quirky little press releases especially for your local paper.
But watch out…
* The story about the council not fixing your leaky roof, your 5km run for charity or the opening of your new shop is not usually going to be a national story – but sometimes little details mean they turn into one. Get professional media advice if a local reporter or photographer turns up at your door or rings asking for comments on a story. Your story might still only be suitable for a local paper but it is best to check first. Sister website Featureworld does not sell stories to the local press but can tell you straightaway if it has national story potential.
* Be aware these days many local newspapers will sell stories on to the national press as well. Sometimes this is done by the local reporter who has written your story – he or she might tip off a national paper or even sell the copy on. At the same time, many local papers are partnered with big news agencies that sell their stories on to newspapers or magazines. While you might be delighted at the thought of more publicity, this means your story is sold without your consent and is not within your control. It also means even if your story made the front pages of every national newspaper, you would not be paid. And unfortunately every so often sister site Featureworld does receive an email from someone who thought their story would only appear in their local paper and is upset that this has happened to them. To avoid this happening, always stipulate that you do not want any photos associated with your story to be sold on without your consent – and get it in writing that they will not be. And ask the local paper questions – are they intending to sell your story on? If they say they might do, then put it on hold and seek professional advice first.