Monday, August 10, 2009

UUA public relations: Journalist talks back

My congratulations to the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) for using Web 2.0 to promote its advice about utilizing public relations via the local media.

As both a media professional and a member of a local Unitarian Universalist community, I have a vested interest in the UUA's approach to working with traditional media. Unfortunately, the UUA's advice is not compatible with the needs of working journalists.

To begin with, when compiling your media contact list, you should not automatically rely on a member of your congregation to be your contact with the local media. His or her position with the media may be in an unrelated area.

If you want to purchase advertising, you should contact the advertising department. If you want to submit a press release, it needs to go to the newsroom. To purchase copies or subscribe, you talk with circulation.

On too many occasions, I've seen people rely on their friends for an "in" with the media and get steered in a wrong direction. Far better to contact the media outlets directly for contacts and submission guidelines.

I am additionally concerned by your advice regarding the timing of press releases.

Rather than postponing your press release to only a couple days before the event, the most important factor that influences its timing should be media outlets' deadlines.

Your media contact list should include this information as well as word limit, preferred format of submission, etc.

Many newspapers have allocated a specific day of the week to run religious news submissions. Other papers are weeklies. By waiting a mere two days before the event, you may have eliminated your chance at publicity.

Also bear in mind that newsroom resources are increasingly stretched thin. It is far more likely than not, that your press release will run as you've submitted it (that is, subject to editing to meet standard newsroom style), rather than a reporter being assigned to file a bylined article.

Be prepared, on the day of the event, to take your own photos and submit your own article. Again, newsroom staff faces enormous workload and may not be able to cover your event.

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