Getting News Coverage for Your Story

News publications are always looking for good ideas for stories, and most like to receive submitted news releases and coverage requests. Some tips for getting a publication to use your news story:

  • EMPHASIZE REAL NEWS OF INTEREST TO REGULAR PEOPLE. That’s not always the same as the publicity angle that an organization thinks will look best in its scrapbook.  Consider how your request for coverage appears to the editor who is trying to figure out if the story will have real news value for the readers – and make sure that newsy-ness comes across in your request for coverage. 
  • COVER THE 5 Ws: Who, What, When, Where, Why and don’t forget How. Maybe lead with what you submit just as a fact sheet that addresses those items, not in story form… just the facts. WHO is doing WHAT? WHEN are they doing it, and WHERE? WHY are they doing it, and HOW? Or in the past-tense, who DID what, when and where, why and how did they do it? 
  • THINK BEFORE YOU TELL THE TIME. If you are asking someone to come and cover your event, don’t just tell them what time the event will be held, but also suggest times when certain activities will occur so a reporter or staff photographer can get good photos or be there for significant action, in case they can’t be there for the whole event. 
    • If you’re hosting a cooking competition, for example, you might tell the editor or reporter that the event will run from 6 to 10 p.m. But even better would be to say the doors open at 6 p.m. when the cooks start preparing their dishes, the dishes will be tasted and judged from 7:30 to 9 p.m., and the winners and runners-up will be announced and presented awards starting at 9:15 p.m.
    • That gives lot of options to an editor or reporter attempting to fit your event into a busy schedule. It’s a problem when you say the event starts at 6 and a reporter shows up at that time only to find the very beginning of the cooks’ prep work, while the real “action” will be the final plating, tasting and judging later on.
  • DON’T SKIMP ON PERTINENT DETAILS. If you’re submitting your own report after the event, include plenty of details. Don’t just say the cooking event was held and announce the winners. How many cooks competed? Who were the judges (anyone well known, famous?). How big an audience was on hand to watch the competition and award presentation? Who won the awards in the various categories, with what dishes (don’t just give a name but include a description).
    • If this was an event to raise money for some good cause, what was the cause and how much money was raised or what’s the best estimate at this time? And if the cause is not widely known, who does the cause benefit and how? Look at stories you’ve seen on similar events that you think are interesting and well written and try to borrow from the way those stories were presented.
    • Keep in mind that you’re submitting a news story, not a novel.
  • SUMBIT A NEWS PHOTO, NOT JUST A SNAPSHOT. If you’re submitting a photo image, make sure it’s clear and crisp, that you’ve focused on and emphasized the “news” taking place. Focus tightly on some action that relates to the event, not just a broad landscape of a room full of people.
    • Don’t submit a “grip and grin” photo or posed left-to-right photo of people standing shoulder-to-shoulder, grinning for the camera. Readers are attracted to photos that show action and help tell a story, so think before your take the photo. A picture of a disadvantaged student working on the new computers your club bought for his class, with one of your members helping or at least looking over his or her shoulder, will have more visual interest and news value than a photo of several club members passing a check to a teacher.
    • Make sure you provide a caption for any photo and that persons in the photo are correctly identified.
  • DON’T WAIT TOO LATE. If you’re asking for someone to cover your event, you need to submit your request for coverage far enough in advance to allow the editors or reporters to get it on their calendars, and to follow up with you in advance if necessary.
    • There are many requests for coverage, so it’s a good idea to give them a reminder about your event maybe 48 hours or so ahead of the event, just to be sure it doesn’t get overlooked.
    • Calling at the last minute is never best. Sometimes it can’t be avoided, such as when something unexpected comes up. Go ahead and try if that’s the case, but remember that you’re calling at the last minute. Be patient and understanding if they say they can’t get to it. But then ask them if you can submit your own photos and information… and be sure to do so the next day. Waiting until days after, much less a week or more after your event, turns your hot news cold.
  • TARGET YOUR REQUEST. Try to do some research to see if you can determine to whom at the publication to direct your request for coverage.
    • If it’s something about a 4-H livestock auction, you’re more likely to find interest from someone involved with covering schools or agriculture events than someone on the police beat. You may be able to get such information from a newspaper’s website, or you can typically call or email the news or sports or lifestyle department (or editor) and be directed on the best way to request coverage for your story.