Personalize Your Approach
When contacting the media, write or call an editor or reporter by name. Look through the local papers for the names of editors or reporters who may be interested in your story. Check web sites for names. Or call. At newspapers, you probably will contact the community or city editor or a feature reporter. At radio and television stations, your contact most likely will be the news director.
Sending Your News
The press release remains the standard for sending news to the media. The release may contain all the information you hope will be used. Or, it may contain an idea for a subsequent news or feature story. A properly crafted release makes a reporter’s job much easier and coverage much more likely. Send the release by mail or e-mail and avoid faxing (faxes often are lost in the newsroom shuffle). It’s OK to follow up with a phone call (but just once, maybe twice).
Your hometown paper is the best bet for local coverage of games and players. Some papers run regular columns of winners at club games or announcements of games and/or lessons. Paradoxically, the larger the paper the less likely the coverage. Your story will need a compelling hook—awards, milestones, local players winning national events, charitable contributions, significant birthdays or anniversaries, a player who uses Braille cards, a special game at the shopping mall or other unusual location, children playing with grandparents, new Life Masters—you get the idea.
Writing the Release
Like bridge players, reporters have their own language. Most papers and magazines use the Associated Press Stylebook as their guide for spelling and grammar. Read the paper to pick up on this style (or you can buy the book from amazon.com). Your release is more likely to be used if the editor doesn’t have to spend a lot of time editing it for style. Always type and double space your release, and don’t forget to include your contact information. Two sample releases are available that use AP style in the text.
For daily media, send a release about two weeks before a scheduled event. Magazines may have much longer lead times; call if you are in doubt. If you call reporters, be aware of their daily deadlines. For example, reporters for morning papers are on deadline in the late afternoon, so make calls before noon.
Reporters love facts and statistics. You may want to provide them with copies of the About ACBL materials available here. You also might produce a fact sheet for your own club, showing number of games, number of players, etc.
Managing the Story
Be sure that you manage the impressions reporters will take away from your club, lessons or tournament. This is a good reason to, in essence, write the story for them through an initial press release. In addition, set up interviews in advance with players you know will represent the game well. Make sure players know a reporter will be present, and stay with the reporters to answer questions and direct them to the right people.
Public Service Announcements
A Public Service Announcement (PSA) is just that—an announcement, generally on the radio or on local cable television stations, that promote public service activities. These are activities that are free of charge or for charity. Contact the radio or TV station to find out where to send a PSA.
The one sure way to obtain media coverage is to pay for it. Many clubs and teachers have had great success with advertising. Be sure to take advantage of the ACBL’s Cooperative Advertising Program. A description of the program and sample advertising templates are included.
Your local newspaper is just one resource for publicity and advertising. Here are a few others:
- Telephone Directories—Make sure the first word you use in the white pages is “Bridge,” as in Bridge Club of Memphis rather than Memphis Bridge Club. Advertise in the Yellow Pages under “Bridge.”
- Fliers—Create a flier to distribute, with permission of course, to community centers, stores or restaurants in your area, libraries, real estate offices, malls, bookstores (promote the club where bridge books are sold), community fairs, etc. Have some on hand for players to distribute on their own.
- Community Visitor and Newcomer Guides—Check with your local Chamber of Commerce for what is available. Also check with Welcome Wagon about putting a flier or coupon in its distribution packets.
- Community Cable Television Calendars—Most community cable stations have a community events bulletin board.
- Affinity Media—This includes newspapers or newsletters for schools, companies or other organizations with which your players are involved.
- Community Internet sites—Most communities now have a site promoting local activities.