Getting Publicity for Your Event
Working with the News Media
Selling your Story
The first step in getting news media publicity for your event is figuring out how to sell your story.
What is newsworthy about your event? What is different and out-of-the-ordinary? Color (human interest) and celebrities (including elected officials) are two ways to attract media attention. If you want television coverage, your event will need to be visually interesting.
Be compelling. Facts alone are impersonal. Compelling stories about how the Migratory Bird Treaty and migratory birds affect people in the local community can be a powerful human interest story and demonstrate your relevance to the newspaper or broadcaster’s audience.
Making the Pitch
Don’t just send a news release. Follow up with a phone call to the reporter or editor the day before the event. When calling a television or radio station, ask to speak to the assignment editor, since the broadcast media rarely have beat reporters.
Be careful not to push too hard. A good story doesn’t need a hard sell. If there is an unusual or compelling element to your story that is not obvious, be sure to point it out. The call should go something like this: This is John Smith. I sent you a news release earlier this week about the special Centennial event we’re having on the refuge tomorrow. We expect to have about 500 people there. I just wanted to see if you needed any other information.
Tools to Help the Reporter get the Story Right
Reporters appreciate fact sheets, web links and press kits because these tools help them get better and more accurate stories. These supporting materials often result in better questions from the reporter and also suggest what’s available to photograph.
Still Photographs and B-Roll
If there are visuals for the story that the media can’t get, due to time or other constraints, you can supply the visuals. Newspapers will use high resolution digital photos; make sure the picture is sharp and high quality. B-roll, which is video without narration, must be broadcast quality.
Ask for Help
Ask your regional FWS External Affairs office (or your communications office if you are not with FWS) for help in pitching your special event to the news media. Be sure to contact External Affairs well in advance of your event so that they can assist with developing a communication strategy as needed. External Affairs can also help you invite regional VIPs such as your regional director to your event.
Getting Publicity through Public Service Advertising
Public Service Advertising - known as a public service announcement (broadcast) or a public service ad (print) - is a brief, free advertisement done as a public service by the newspaper or broadcast station. PSAs help generate support for all kinds of social issues on behalf of non-profit organizations. Nearly all forms of media use PSAs to fill unsold air time or print space, although they are not obligated to do so. There are great demands for this service, so publishers and broadcasters usually select material of the highest interest to the local audience.
If you decide to use a PSA in hopes of broader publicity than you can generate with a news release, think about how to make it more appealing so it is likely to be used. A written script from you accompanied by a tape of bird calls or natural sounds (for radio) or b-roll footage (for television) will help.
A print PSA should be camera-ready so the newspaper advertising department can simply drop it into a vacant space. It can be developed in various sizes, such as single column and double column widths, and both vertical and horizontal formats. Smaller ads are more likely to get used than larger ones -- two inches deep by two columns wide and one column wide by six inches deep are the most popular sizes. Similarly, a broadcast PSA should be developed in various sizes, such as 20, 30, and 60 second lengths. Highest quality format for radio is compact disk, while for television it is Beta SP.
Sometimes, a newspaper or broadcaster may be able to offer production assistance. Many large market radio stations will not use pre-recorded PSAs, but prefer live announcer copy that radio personalities can read on the air.
Don’t forget local cable systems! Cable’s share of the television viewing audience offers additional media opportunities.
Making a speech or giving a presentation at your event? Here are a few tips and some resources for delivering a successful presentation and finding compelling sound bites.
As you prepare your speech or presentation, consider:
- Who is your audience? What is their current awareness of migratory bird conservation?
- What is the purpose of your speech or presentation? To inform your audience about bird conservation and its relevance to them? To inspire them to take action for bird conservation? To engage them through a specific event or activity?
- List 3 to 5 key objectives – what do you want your audience to know, feel or do after listening to you?
In addition to the key messages, consider including one or two compelling quotes about birds and bird conservation. A great resource for conservation and bird-themed quotes is on the North American Bird Conservation Initiative website.