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Releasing Big News - 7 Steps to Success
Nancy Schwartz

February, 2010

Follow this path to ensure your organization’s big news (e.g., the release of a major research report on rebuilding the infrastructure for at-risk youth or the launch of a new program that’s addressing a major need in your community) gets the media coverage it merits.

This “campaign” planning process follows the same basic path as should your overall media relations planning:

1. Start planning as far out as possible. The more time you have to plan, the more effective the results.

  • You can do it in a week if you have to, but four to six weeks out is ideal.

2. Define your goals and who you have to reach to meet them.

  • Pick your media list accordingly, focusing on the top ten.

3. What’s the story?

  • The story isn’t about the research findings; it’s about how those findings intersect with key issues and needs of your target audiences.
  • The story isn’t about your new program for teen parents; it’s about how that program addresses a challenge that’s important to your network.

4. Put together the talking points:

  • Why your story is important to readers.
  • Additional sources to speak to.
  • Data and statistics to back up your statements.

Once you have these details down, craft them into key messages.

5. Select the right strategies to put to work:

  • Is this big enough for a news conference or other event?  A news conference should be held for once-in-a-few-years major news. If so, planning for the news conference comes first, followed by a press release.
  • Musts for all media campaigns include:
    • Experts line-up (your subject experts add credibility and depth to your story).
    • Training (media training for spokespeople, training all staff on the campaign and steps
      involved in report release).
    • Pitching your story to key members of the media.
    • Press release distribution to your list and via an online distribution service (I use PRWEb).
    • Plus story-specific strategies: For example,the release of research findings is an ideal focus
      of an editorial briefing, when you meet with a few key members of a paperís editorial staff.

6. Draft the perfect pitch email, including:

  • Who you are and what organization you work with.
  • What’s new and valuable about what your story.
  • Why audiences care.
  • How it ties in with other newsworthy events.
  • How it relates to other stories of interest.
  • Follow up only when it’s major news, following these guidelines:
    • Don’t call an editor or reporter who is on deadline.
    • Avoid unnecessary calls to check the status of a placement.
    • Observe the cues you get from the media. If a reporter, blogger or editor seems harried or annoyed, back off immediately.
    • Don’t sacrifice an important relationship for the possibility of a short-term win.

7. Don’t stop after round one.

  • Unless your story is finite (like a one-time event), continue looking for opportunities to relate your story to other news stories and trends

About the Author
Nancy E. Schwartz helps nonprofits succeed through effective marketing and communications. As President of Nancy Schwartz & Company(, Nancy and her team provide marketing planning and implementation services to organizations as varied as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Center for Asian American Media, and Wake County (NC) Health Services.

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