Source: Sherman Publications

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Don't Rush Me
Cut this out, put it on your ‘fridge
How to get your news in our newspaper

by Don Rush

May 18, 2011

I ain't saying I am getting old, but in less than two weeks I will have been working for "The Company" for 26 years. "The Company" publishes the weekly newspaper in your hand, and its sister community publications, The Oxford Leader, Clarkston News, The Citizen, Ad-Vertiser, Penny Stretcher, and The Big Deal. "The Company" has even started local internet TV stations . . .

Yikes, I am getting older. My hair is getting grayer and my eyesight worser (and my grammar is suckier). But, that's beside the point. During my tenure I have come to the conclusion that most folks, service groups, churches, businesses — basically everybody – don't know how to help themselves publicize stuff. They know they want to get the word out, but the best way eludes them. My bad.

In 26-years (a generation's worth of readers) I don't think I have helped you folks help me with new releases. Every day I come to work and I expect everybody in town knows what to do, just because I do. That is a huge, and wrong assumption. I am a highly trained, over-worked and underpaid community journalist, so I sort of know what I am doing. (I usually tell folks who care that community journalism is a lot like community volunteerism in that the pay is the same.)

Here is the first thing you need to know: We get a ton of press releases in print and even more via e-mail. And a ton more that should really be paid advertising. This past Sunday, I spent about four hours going through e-mail for The Lake Orion Review. I deleted stuff that wasn't about this particular community, sorted the items that did . .. placed them into other electronic files, re-wrote some, edited all and responded to others asking for more info.

Four hours.

And, this is after checking the e-mail EVERY day during the week. We get over 100 e-mails a day from folks wanting to inform the community of their event.

So, to help yourself get your news, you need to:

1. In the subject line of the e-mail type something like "Oxford local event," or "Lake Orion man" or "Clarkston woman," or "Ortonville grad . . ." Putting in the town's name automatically makes your e-mail a priority and ups the odds in your favor that your e-mail won't get lumped in with the bazillion that just say "press release" and get deleted by mistake. Oops.

2. Write your release in paragraph form. That means with sentences containing nouns, verbs, adverbs and adjectives. Sending a flier (which is really just an ad) and hoping it gets in is, well, less than optimal. Editors and reporters are people, too. Taking time to try and think what you want to say and then type it requires effort. You improve your chances of success by sending us your event, promotion, notice in paragraph form.

3. On second thought, less adjectives . . . get to the point without sounding like a commercial. In other words, don't type: "Come to the most awesome event ever! Your life will be changed!" Just say, "Don's group invites the public to his event." Include, time, place, date and a brief description of what's up.

4. Send a picture. Make sure people are in your picture. And, make sure you name the people in your picture, from left to right and then front to back.

5. Make sure you include your name AND a daytime phone where we can contact you. We may have questions or your e-mail may have piqued our interest and we might actually want to do an actual, honest-to-goodness news story on you or your event. Hey, stranger things have happened.

6. Abide by our deadlines. Your best bet is to send us stuff by Friday, before Wednesday's publication. Monday at Noon is cutting your chances between slim and none (and slim just took the last train out of town).

7. Follow up with a phone call, not another e-mail. Sometimes your e-mail will be earmarked by the electronic email gods as SPAM. I don't know what SPAM is if it doesn't come in a can, but on the computer I know it ain't good. So, call to make sure we have your e-mail.

8. Bribes of food, sweets, et al help. Send pies, cake and cookies as often as possible (the editor has a sweet tooth).

9. It is always good to make sure you read the newspaper you are trying to use. If you or your group does not subscribe, shell out the thirty bucks and make it happen. Don't cheap out. (Remember I have access to subscription records and I do check the list to see who supports us. Those who do get preferential treatment.)

Now that you know what you know, cut out this column and tape it to your 'fridge. Send copies to your group's head PR person (that would be Public Relations). Help me, help you.