A couple of thoughts as a former journalist and PR professional...
1) Weekends are a great opportunity for getting coverage. Luckily, many Amateur Radio Events (like Field Day) take place on weekends when the news cycle is generally slow and media outlets are looking for stories to fill their news holes (I've had great luck getting coverage for weekend events). Get an advisory out well ahead of time with the particulars, location, date and time. Also, think about visuals for TV (Hoisting antennas, operators making contacts, etc). Make sure you provide a contact name, phone and email. I prefer giving a cell phone number so you're less likely to miss a call. Reporters can be lazy, so make their job as easy as possible. A well written news release -- no more than two pages -- will go far. And, don't take a reporter's knowledge for granted. Make sure to use language and explanations that non-Hams can grasp... and don't use acronyms unless you explain what they mean. If you can, have a non-Ham read your advisory or release and see if they understand what it's about (they can also check for misspellings and typos).
2) Don't forget weeklies, advertiser papers and community papers! These outlets are usually looking for news to fill their pages to often will even run a well written news release verbatim, as they're also usually short on editorial staff. Most publish weekly, some monthly, so make sure you get the info out to them plenty of time in advance, especially if it's an event you're looking for the public to attend. You can also submit a release that wraps-up the results of an event if you're looking for coverage after the fact. Many will also publish pictures you submit. However, make sure they're of decent quality and resolution. Also, make sure you include a "cut line" with any pictures that describes what's in them, as well as the identity of people being shown. If it's not someone in your club, you may wish to have people in the photo(s) sign a release. Photography release forms can be readily found on the web with a quick Google search. They are generally not required if they are taken at a public event or in a public area... but it never hurts to err on the side of caution. If you are using pictures of minors, a release from a parent or legal guardian is usually advised.
3) Finally, do a little legwork for best results. If you're doing a story with a particular slant, see if there's a reporter who has worked on similar stories in the past. This example is not directly applicable but it will give you an idea. Recently, I was asked to get publicity for a memory garden that was being dedicated for a young woman who had been a community leader and who had been killed in an auto accident a few months previously. I found the reporter who covered the original accident, as well as his email address. I sent the news release I had written directly to him, along with some photos of the garden. He ran the story in the paper, as well as online. By the way, this was a major NYC suburban paper, too.
Hope these tips are helpful!
Bryan Jackson, W2RBJ
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