How to get good coverage in your local newspaper

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If you've ever studied martial arts, you'll know that one of the first lessons you learn is when NOT to use martial arts. It may seem backwards, but it's true. Knowing when not to use something can often be the best solution. 

Digital marketing is the same. There are simply times when digital marketing isn't going to be your best option, or at the very least, it should never be your only option. In truth, if you use digital marketing correctly, it should generate interest from traditional news outlets from time to time, such as newspapers.

So how do you go from digital marketing to getting coverage in a newspaper? 

We're glad you asked.

Seeing your work in print isn’t (usually) just good luck. There’s a recipe to crafting and pitching press releases and, ultimately, getting good news coverage. 

You have to write in a clear way that communicates what you’re seeking, plus you have to submit to publications in the right way. News publication are just like any other audience you want to target. You need to understand what they want and how they want it.

Here’s the lowdown:

1. What’s the goal?

Begin with the end in mind. What do you want people to do after they see coverage of you or your company or product in the newspaper, magazine, or other publication? Do you want them to buy your shirt, call you for legal advice, visit your website, find you on Twitter? What’s the result you expect? Then craft your pitch based on this. 

2. Remember your audience

You are writing for the people who you want to hear this news—not the people on your team. So remember that foremost. Readers don’t care about the names of the 12 people who helped develop the product. They care about the product. 

3. Explore your options

What kind of press can you expect? If it’s a daily or weekly newspaper, you could be looking at a calendar blurb or roundup item, a photo/cutline, a basic press release (with/without photos), or a full spread with a lengthier article and photos (submitted by you)—or you can get the paper to do its own feature story on your topic.

Also, make a list of the various media outlets you need to submit to.

4. Who’s your contact?

Once you know which publications or news outlets you wish to send to, don’t just send to a generic fax number or basic news@yourlocalpaper.com email address (or whatever generic news email address they provide on their website). Try to find out the specific person or people to send to, such as the news or features editor. And don’t just do this once and be done. In many news outlets, there’s a lot of turnover, so just because you discovered Jane Smith was the reporter in January doesn’t mean she’s still the reporter in September. Send to the generic news email address, PLUS maybe a features editor or writer, or a business editor or reporter, or just their general assignment editor or writer, depending on the size of the paper.

5. How do they want it?

Take the time to research how they like to receive news. For most places, an email with attachments is best, but we’ve found some places don’t want any attachments, or they want news submitted only through their website form to minimize viruses, etc. So take a couple of minutes to research this. Today, email is usually best, though you might still find some places that want postal mail or fax. If that’s what they want, then by all means, follow their instructions!

6. When to send?

Send far in advance. A month is good for a weekly paper, a couple weeks for a daily, and for a monthly, two months or more.

7. What to send?

Submit two key things: the pitch and the submission package.

a) The pitch (a quick little note at the start of the email):

Hi, there, I’m with Happy Hula Hoops in Columbia, South Carolina, and we have a big hula-hoop contest coming up next month where all proceeds benefit kids with cancer in our local community. It’s a really touching story and I think your readers would be interested. 

I’m attaching several things: a press release, two high-res photos with cutlines, and a blurb for your calendar section, if you could also get it in there. We really appreciate the help!

If you have any questions or need anything, please let me know. Also, we’d love to have you there as our guest! If you can’t attend, no problem at all. I’ll take some photos and send them to you after. Have a great day!

Jane Doe, 803-555-1212

b) The submission package (make sure all are separate files, not embedded in one Publisher file or Word document):

  • Press release or article (more on this soon)
  • One or two high-resolution photos (more on this soon)
  • Calendar blurb (this they can easily pop into their calendar of upcoming events, if they have one. Mimic their style if possible. Most are like this: May 5—Grand opening from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Happy Hula Hoops, 123 Main Street, Columbia, featuring games, bounce house, food, more. Free. All welcome. For information: 828-555-1212, janedoe@gmail.com or www.happyhulahoops.com)

8. Follow up

Don’t just send and be done. Follow up! Relationships are everything. However, do not email that day or the next to be sure they got it; it’s a busy industry, and publications are notoriously short-staffed. Wait a week. If you haven’t gotten a reply, then check in with a kind note.

Don’t say “Hi, this is Mike Jones, did you get my email?” Then they’ll be frustrated and have to go back through hundreds of submissions looking to see…or just give you a “yeah sure.”

Do forward the original email and have a note at the top, “Just wanted to make sure you got my submission about our concert next month concert benefitting kids with cancer. Thanks again, and let me know if you need anything!”  And you’ll usually get a reply saying “So sorry for the delay, I’ve been out sick, got it and thanks!”

With these helpful tips, you’ll surely see your news in print. Happy writing!


If you found this helpful and would like more great info delivered right to your inbox:

Matt Brodie

Columbia Wedding Photography, 112 Old Cherokee Road, Lexington, SC, 29072