Television, Radio and Newspaper Publicity Begins With 5 W’s

When trying to get publicity for your product, event, organization, business endeavor, fundraiser or whatever, the first contact you will have with the media will probably be through either an email or news release. My newsroom receives hundreds of such communications every week – some well-written, others poorly-written – but that’s for another article. Regardless of the quality of each submission, each has one thing in common. Each is meant to convey information to the news media that will convince the news organization to give coverage to whatever you are promoting.

Too often in the writer’s zeal and haste to put out that perfect news release replete with facts, figures, background information, email addresses, websites and phone numbers, the basics are forgotten. What are the basics? The 5 W’s. The 5 W’s are the first thing the newsroom assignment manager looks for when he reads it – Who, What, When, Where and Why. No matter how information-packed your document is, the 5 W’s are really all the newsroom needs to know in making the decision on whether or not to cover the event. Yours might present the 5 W’s in bullet-point form or in a paragraph. For instance, let’s say the local Harley Owners Group (HOG) motorcycle riders will hold a charity ride to benefit Muscular Distrophy. The paragraph form simply has to state, ‘The Green Bay Harley Owners Group (HOG) will hold a charity ride to benefit Muscular Distrophy, Saturday, June 4, 2011 at 9am starting at the Brown County Fairgrounds.’ There you have it – the 5 W’s all in one, simple, short sentence. Yet, you would be amazed at how many we receive that are missing one or more of the 5 W’s. I have seen some that were missing the date of the event – really, the date! Others did not indicate a time. Some will list the Where for example as simply Sidekicks Bar, leaving the media to ask what city or town Sidekicks Bar is in.

I could not count the number of those I’ve seen where the day and date did not match. They state that an event would be held on Saturday, June 4 when, in fact, June 4 is on a Sunday. With all due respect to the writer, we in the media know how this happens. Many organizations have annual events that fall on the same weekend each year. Sometimes, the writer looks at last year’s date and puts it on this year’s mailing. No big deal, but it does force the media to try to contact you to find out if you meant Saturday or Sunday. Then there are those that don’t give a calendar date, only stating that the event will be ‘Tuesday.’ Here’s the problem with that one – what if I receive this communication on a Tuesday? Is the event happening today? Was it last Tuesday and we missed it? Or is it next Tuesday?

Publicity and coverage for your event or activity begins with the 5 W’s. The easier you make it for the media, the more likely it is the media will cover your event.

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