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Press releases should be in the same format as a newspaper story. One page double-spaced is a good length. The first paragraph should include the basic "who, what, when, where, and why." Example: Girls between the ages of 6 and 12 will get a chance to try the Eastside YWCA after-school sports programs on February 3. The free open house, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., is being held in honor of National Girls and Women in Sports Day.
Press releases should go out about two weeks before your event. This gives editors and producers enough time to plan a story, but not so long that they forget or lose the information.
Media alerts are a special form of press releases that encourage media to attend a newsworthy event. Media alerts take the form of a one-page fact sheet. Media alerts should be prepared and distributed as soon as you have the basic information on the event. Ideally, media alerts should go out three to four weeks before the event so specific journalists whom you want to attend can make arrangements.
Unfortunately, sending out press releases and media alerts isn't enough to guarantee coverage. You may get a phone call back, but don't count on it. It's up to you to call the people on your list, starting with those who will help you reach the most people in your primary audience. Verify that they received the information, suggest several story ideas, and confirm whether they or someone else from their organization will attend the event.
Get copies of newspaper and magazine coverage of your event. If possible, tape television and radio news stories and ask the station for a complimentary copy. When you report your activities at NGWSD Central, www.NGWSDCentral.com, be sure to mention that you had media coverage and what kind. Evidence of media coverage will help us secure future sponsorship of the Day both for the national organizations and your local group. There's nothing a potential sponsor likes better than media exposure. Also, keep notes about the people you spoke with at each publication or station. That will make it easier next year to plan your media efforts.