GENERAL GUIDELINES WHEN DEALING WITH NEWSPAPERS
Every newspaper has deadlines and press releases have to be sent well ahead of those deadlines. The public relations person or volunteer in charge of media relations for any animal rescue group, shelter, or organization needs to call each newspaper in the area to verify the deadline dates. Sometimes papers have room to run a calendar item more than once so sending it a month in advance is a good idea.
Free listings typically run on a space-available basis so your item may not always get in. However, don’t take that as an indication that you should stop sending press releases to that paper. Items will get in the paper more often than not, so it’s worth the effort.
When sending a calendar item, make sure the release has all the necessary information and is written clearly. It needs to have the type of event, the date, the time, the location with street address, a contact number for readers, and a contact number for the paper – someone who can be contacted during the day.
If you fax a press release make sure it has the name of the person you want to receive it clearly stated. E-mailing releases is now pretty much accepted at most newspapers, too, but these releases have to be just as accurate and complete as the hard copies. Without all the necessary information the items cannot be published.
It’s a good idea to get to know the newspaper in which you hope to run your release or suggest a story idea. Read it for a few weeks and check out the different sections. Does it have a Pet Page? What day does that section run? Check the names of reporters on that page and check news sections or local sections to see how often they have animal features and what the topic is. Then call the newspaper and ask to speak with the Pet Page editor or reporter, or if there isn’t a Pet Page, ask for the person who frequently writes about pets or animals. Introduce yourself and your group and ask how to go about sending information to the paper.
It’s important to keep in mind that a newspaper is not a pet magazine, and most will not run large features on pets every week. However, many papers will run news briefs on a weekly Pet Page. Never underestimate the power of these briefs or even calendar listings. Many of these blurbs have lead to events being picked up by TV and radio stations. In the case of fundraisers or calls for help, these briefs have helped to reach new supporters. If you think something that happened at your rescue group or shelter is special or different, don’t hesitate to call your pet contacts at the paper. Even if these people can’t accommodate the story on the Pet Page, they are the best people to try to sell the idea to a town, county, or state reporter or editor.
Newspapers can’t send photographers to every single community event. If you have someone on staff who is a good photographer, have him or her take pictures and send them to the newspaper for consideration in the community section. The photos have to be clear to even be considered, and it’s important to get them into the right hands. Call your pet contact and ask for the name of the community editor.
If there’s one person in your shelter or rescue organization who is designated as the public relations person, make sure your contact at the newspaper has that person’s name and number. You never know when your group may be called to be part of a larger story; another great way to get the word out about the work you do.
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