A checklist for every time you send a news release

Have you ever sent a news release only to realize you forgot an important piece of information? Or forgot to attach the backgrounder you said was attached?

Once it is out there via email or on social media, it can be tough to get the correct information the same exposure as your first message.

It’s a bit embarrassing.

We’re only human, and I strongly believe communications has to have a human voice to be heard. Still, it helps to say it clearly and correctly the first time.

Use a checklist before you post your news to make sure everything is in order. The media will appreciate and come to rely on your accuracy and professionalism.

Some key things to include in your News Release Checklist:

  • Do you have a catchy headline? Use this in your subject line as well: it’s the first thing reporters and editors see and the best chance to get their attention.
  • Include the date and your location—you want media to know your story is relevant to them.
  • Do not include the words ‘For Immediate Release’; once you send it, it is released. If you’re embargoing it, make that clear in your email.
  • Include contact information (phone and email) of someone who will be available to talk to the media and is knowledgeable about the topic.
  • Include hyperlinks to your website and email in the text of the release.
  • Send the release from the email that you want media to respond to so they can just click reply to ask questions.
  • Provide a pronouncer for difficult-to-say names or words.
  • Do you have good quality, relevant photos or video that you can include?
  • Can you offer a photo opportunity with the release?
  • Double check your spelling, contact info and all links!

Whether you send news releases once or twice a week or once or twice a year, it is always a good idea to have a checklist so that each release is the best it can be.

I’d like to hear what you would add to this checklist.

How a story carries your message

The importance of a story in your news release struck home recently. I was working with a client, a nonprofit, who was looking for a quick turnaround on some key messages, social media posts and a news release to promote their latest fundraiser. I knew the client well, and we both knew what worked for them. The client was a humane society, and their social media usually lit up when they shared the stories of the animals that came to the shelter.

Nothing like a heart-wrenching story of a cat rescued from the bitter cold winter, needing immediate vet care, and still losing its ears, nose and tail to frostbite to make your audience want to read on. And open their wallets. This campaign was to generate sales of a new lottery fundraiser.

We shaped the news release and key messages around the high number of cats and dogs that the shelter rescues each year, the high cost of veterinary care to ensure all of the animals are healthy, and the ongoing care costs of this no-kill shelter.

The key messages revolved around the shelter’s belief that every animal has value, and they care for them until they are adopted, no matter how long that takes. The costs add up. So we pushed the new lottery fundraiser and where to buy tickets. We emphasized the size of the cash prize.

Yet something was missing. The hook of all those pets looking for homes was compelling, but it lacked that one story that would engage supporters on an individual level. Who hasn’t visited an animal shelter and wanted to take every pet home? But we can’t. We have to focus on one that we can connect with and open our heart to it. The story in your communications works the same way. Find the one that connects with people.

So we asked the shelter for a story about one of their recent cases, and they shared the story of Frosty, the young cat who came in from the cold. It made all the difference. It gave the key messages, news release, and most of all the social media posts, a story worth sharing.

Unfortunately, the shelter has too many similar stories to share. Often we have to search a little harder for the story that connects us to our news releases or campaign. The example of the humane society simply illustrates the importance of the story that connects our message to our audience.

Frosty’s story has a happy ending: she was adopted by someone committed to continuing the high cost of her veterinary care, someone who connected with her story.

Read about all the good work of the Moose Jaw Humane Society at their website and on Facebook.