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In Print:

Maximizing Coverage of Charity Activities in Community Newspapers

By Lynn Fenske

Charities are primarily community-based organizations providing services to members/clients, recruiting volunteers, running special events and soliciting donors in ways that are relevant to local communities or chapters. Doing this effectively requires skill and experience in targeting external communications to specific audiences. Much of what is communicated is newsworthy (of interest to or affecting the community) and thereby is of interest to the local, community newspaper.

As with all communications, how you present your point of view is most important. When it comes to getting coverage in the local newspaper, presentation is paramount. The newspaper needs all the help it can get since staff members are always pushed to the limit. Even when student interns are available to help out, there is never enough manpower or time to follow up on every story lead or to attend every special event. So to maximize your profile and get your story or event covered, give the newspaper what it wants, when it wants it.

Here's how:

  1. Always submit information in writing following a news release or media advisory format. If you lack the necessary expertise, then acquire it through volunteer resources or contracting a professional. ( Sources is an excellent place to start.)
  2. Answer all the key questions of who, what, when, where and why.
  3. Whenever possible, submit the information electronically. If submitting information by fax, always telephone afterwards to make sure it was received.
  4. Follow the newspaper's instructions on where to submit information. When in doubt, send it to the editor.
  5. Honour the geographical boundaries of the newspaper. Remember, they are serving a specific community. Anything taking place beyond their "territory" will not receive coverage.
  6. Be aware of deadlines. Most importantly, is the newspaper published daily, weekly or monthly? For calendar listings, get the information in as early as possible - up to four weeks in advance of your event. (Calendar space is limited and items usually get listed on a first come, first served basis.)
  7. Always describe any opportunities that exist for taking photographs and be specific about the time. Photographers often have to cover several events in one day. If you do not specify the time of presentations, ribbon cuttings, ceremonies, etc. then the photographer may inadvertently arrive too late.
  8. Maintain a positive attitude and be trustworthy, accurate and timely in your delivery of information. In other words, be someone the editors can look forward to working with and can depend on.
  9. Be sensitive to the pressures and deadlines of publishing. Don't make demands on the editors. They have enough pressure to deal with, often being responsible for several editions per week.
  10. Establish a good working relationship with editors knowing that they rely on people like you to help them stay informed of all that is happening in the community.

Now go get those headlines.

Lynn Fenske is a freelance PR writer and editor of the Sources Hotlink newsletter.

Lynn Fenske
“putting your ideas in writing”

For lists of Canadian community newspapers and other media (online/as a database/in print) see:
Media Names & Numbers or Sources databases and mailing lists.

See also:
Sources Calendar (online event calendar for the media)