How to Write a Press Release for Your Event

Or, how to help me help you.

I manage two guild websites. Both sites have a Coming Events page.

I also do publicity for three guilds, so I’ve sat on both sides of the desk, and seen a wide variety of requirements.

Like all communication, you need to think like your audience. Give the editor exactly what she needs, and it will take her five minutes to do exactly what you want. If you don’t give us what we need, we can’t do what you want, and that frustrates us. Do you really want to frustrate the person who is giving you free advertising?

First, bother to get a copy of the paper. How many words do they have per group? Do they have a standard format?

Most coming events pages are calendars.

Make it easy for them to find the date and strip it from your paragraph.

Most have room for 50 words. Start with a 30-word paragraph with all the important information. Date, time, even name, group name, location, cost, contact. That leaves about 5 words for “internationally-known” and “join us!”

If you have a website, then the email address is optional. (Your website has your email on it, right?) Phone number is not optional. I get many calls from people who want the human touch. First name for the contact is friendly, but optional.

The editor can cut and paste those 50 words and think you’re an easy group to work with.

I advertise successfully in two papers with a 15-word limit. How? I’m one of the few people who send them 13-word ads.

But your event is so interesting that you need more words!

Include names. “Cricket, my famous friend from college is helping us run a concert!” Great, but no one will know who he is unless tell us. (There might even be room for a name in the first paragraph. )

Look at the paper. Do they make exceptions for anyone else? If not, don’t expect them to make an exception for you.

However, it’s still a good idea to send newspapers and radio stations extra information, and send it early. If they have extra space to fill, they can turn your event into a short article. If they have a slow news day or bored videographer, they’ll remember this event, hosted by people who are easy to work with.

Most websites are calendars with extra features.

All the above advice holds. 50 words of the important stuff. Optional information in separate paragraphs.

Even if the site can use a picture of the poster, give them the words separately. Many editors have a form. It’s easier for them to cut and paste text than to type from a picture. Also, the picture on the site is usually too small to be read. Yes, the reader can click to enlarge it, but you need to entice them first.

A word about links: If you give me the links, I will put them in and activate them. If you don’t, I can’t. Also, spell out the links separately. Sometimes email mangles hidden text. If the link to your event is long, include a second, shorter link to your main site. Newspaper readers can type in the short link and search your site. Online readers can click and get to the event page immediately.

Most meetings are busy.

If I can print I can print a single page poster off my black-and-white printer and hold it up at the meeting, I will. I’ll even read a few of the words on it.

Then I’ll put it on the “interesting things” table and people can look at it during the break.

Second choice is a letter. If I can mindlessly read 50 words, I will. I’ll even read them slowly and with interest, and members will chime in, “I went last year. It was great!”

50 words. Sound familiar? May as well send the meeting the same paragraph that you sent the newspapers and websites.

I cannot hold up a multi-page printout of a website. Nor can I condense an entire page of text into a minute. (One minute is 100 words.) Nor will I do both poster and text.

Summary

There’s no substitute for looking at the paper or website yourself and giving them what they need.

If they are kind enough to have guidelines, use them!

However, if you don’t have time to do the research, you’ll get good results by sending them 50 words, a poster they can print or put up, links, and extra information they can use if they have room.

Weekly Virtue: Review Sincerity, Prepare for Justice

This week was Sincerity.

Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.

It’s interesting how that ties into my latest mis-step.

Sometimes being sincere hurts others.

I recently realized (and may have realized before, and will probably forget — it’s something that my brain keeps rejecting) that things I’ve been doing to help individual kids in my daughter’s group might be hurting more than helping.

I mark the homework. I’m one of the markers who show up every week. Most kids, things go smoothly. Many times, a few words to the parents clears small problems before they become big. Sometimes, though, involving the parents actually hurts the child, and that’s where my brain glitches. How can involving parents hurt the child?

The parents panic, or think that their child’s position in the group is at risk, or the homework is too much work and the group isn’t worth it, or that they’re terrible parents because they can’t get their preteen girls to focus and learn. (Cue laugh and sympathy for those who think that’s possible.) Some parents expect their kids to pick things up faster than the kids can. Many parents don’t know the subject themselves, so they’re not comfortable, and often try to rush through their own learning.

They are thinking innocently and justly and trying to do what’s best for their kids. I’m doing the same.

The kids who struggle with this homework are probably struggling at school, so really need a place where they can achieve without school-type work. This group can be that.

In the big picture, there’s a lot more to the group than the homework. The homework supports the end product, not the other way around, and the end product is incredible. But my job is the homework, and due to confidentiality, that’s often all I see. Even that’s spotty. Some kids don’t hand in their book every week, and we can’t always divide it so the same marker sees the same book each week, so it’s hard to see patterns. We can pull kids out for a quick private lesson, but that takes time from more important work. Also, some parts have to be done with a CD player.

So in all sincerity I thought I was helping. That sincerity caused me to put a ton of energy into actions that may have hurt.

We’re slowly working on a better system, one that will help us identify the kids who need a different type of help or different standard earlier, and to help them.

Next week is justice.

Justice. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.

Well, in the previous project, I can stop writing notes for the parents. Except often that works quite well.

Not sure what he means by omitting the benefits that are your duty. Is it benefits that are due to me? I should take what I’m owed? Easy enough. I’m satisfied that I’m getting the recognition and payment I’m owed (except from my kids, but I hear that’s normal). I always do my duties to the best of my ability, so no problem there.

I wonder what thoughts the virtue will trigger over the next week.

Weekly Virtue: Review of Industry, Prepare for Sincerity

Last week was Industry.

Industry. Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.

To put it mildly, and looking only at a limited area, I rocked!

It’s wound down, now, but for a few weeks I was in an accountability group experiment. Three of us sent daily (or hourly or weekly, it was an experiment) reports. We each experimented with different report methods and frequencies. The only commitment was to support. Not even to read all the reports!

At first, my evening reports were pretty standard. More not done than done. Eye-opening!

Does improving your “percent completed” count, if you do it by reducing your goals? I think so. Rather than make a long list of little things and report mostly failure, I chose a few larger things I often put off, and dropped several of the little things entirely (for now, still hope to add them back later).

Last week, my accounting backlog was at May. (Bills are paid on time, but statements need reconciling and filing.) Yesterday I finished July. My other commitments are being met, including training assistants for a volunteer jobs. Both want to learn the technology. One will reach the “try Googling these words” stage next week. The other is already running with the section I gave her.

I started doing “just one more thing before reporting” so I could report success. It’s easier and more rewarding to report “all housework done for the week” than list bits done and not done.

I’ll need to be careful. Not too much in a batch. Take breaks.

The downside to this batching is that I don’t check the weekly list as often. Yesterday I planned to do fiddly desk things, which included this blog entry, but did more on the accounting backlog instead.

Another influence was Dr. Mel over on Psychowith6. She tests a different productivity hack each week, and recently did Do It Now. Taken too far, you tidy all your drawers now instead of cooking supper. With limits, though, I like it. Fifteen minutes every day wandering the house works wonders. (It’s also one of the things I cut, but want to restart.)

Do It Now is also a reward. If I’m on schedule with what needs to be done, I get to tackle things that annoy me! That’s much better than the (now burned) list of what to tackle when, and not being allowed to tackle what is annoying me in the moment. The list was freeing when I let DIT get out of control (you don’t have to do it now, it’s on the schedule), but I rarely got to things on the schedule.

(The other intent of Do It Now was tidying up after yourself immediately. I’m almost where I want to be with that.)


Next week is Sincerity. If I can fake that, I’ve got it made.

Only kidding.

Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.

I need to work, not on sincerity specifically, but on thinking first. Thinking long. Finding that space. Choosing to let things go. I don’t have to jump in and help immediately. Silence is okay. Sometimes when my kids annoy me, it’s because they’re working through their own problems, and me cracking down on them too hard doesn’t help them solve those problems.

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
— Viktor E. Frankl

Weekly Virtue: Review Frugality, Prepare for Industry

Last week was Frugality.

Frugality. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.

About average. Went to the dollar store rather than Staples for low-use binders. (It helps that the stores are beside each other.) Actually returned a poor purchase. Two meals out, both reasonable, but one which might turn into a weekly treat for myself if I’m not careful. Happy with the grocery bills. We’re pretty-much within budget overall.

Next week is Industry.

Industry. Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.

I’ve changed the way I do large projects. Last season I put even many of my large projects into hibernation, and planned to spend two afternoons a week to do the few remaining. I wasn’t doing them. This week I picked one and started working on it to the exclusion of just about everything else. I’m more excited about the possibility of finishing it now that I’m working on it regularly. I had planned to work on it this afternoon as well, but errands and groceries ran late, and then I went online. Oops.

I’m also going to batch friends’ requests instead of doing them immediately, at least when I remember to. Yes, they will probably take the same total time, but at least my prime time will be spent on my own projects. Maybe the less-than-instant action will encourage them to experiment a bit more themselves.

I’ve also identified a few places where I go above and beyond. That’s going to stop. I’ll do what I can with what they give me, not look up the rest of the details. It’s a toss-up between breaking my heart seeing the result which isn’t as useful to them as it could be, and resenting the time spent doing what they could have done easier themselves.

I’m also asking my assistants (they’re volunteer jobs at three guilds) do more. That’s always a challenge for me, since at this stage in both of their training it’s easier for me to do it myself than forward instructions. However, they both took the job to learn, and they are learning, when I take the time to ask them.

Now I’m going to be industrious and clean the kitchen (wanted to get errands done before lunch, so didn’t do the breakfast dishes) before the kids get home, then work on the story I’m performing tonight. It’s my interpretation of a traditional story. Good in that I don’t have to learn the author’s words. Bad because, while I enjoy the brainstorming and testing to see what works, I need to work on cutting out the bits that don’t fit.

Weekly Virtue: Review Resolution, Prepare for Fugality

This week was Resolution, from Ben Franklin’s list.

Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.

The week started well enough. Very well, actually. I only did some of what I’d planned, but my plans were too optimistic (seriously so), and made good choices overall. Sadly, it ended badly. As evidence, I present this day-late blog post. (Remember I do this Wednesday to Wednesday.)

I skipped my weekly and daily plans. Part of it may have been I’ve been keeping better records, and seeing all the things I plan that don’t get done makes me question why I bother to plan.

I know the answer to that already. Planning lets me see the ground ahead. It reminds me what is important. It tells me if I need to be careful about staying on track. It prepares me for the most likely dead ends. It helps me make informed decisions when I get off track. Continue on the new track, or go back to a modified version of the original plan. Notice the complete lack of “Planning is useless unless I follow the plan.”

A few minutes ago I was very discouraged. Then I rebooted. I did what I should have done this morning, and yesterday morning.Review the lists and make the first cut for tomorrow’s list. Actually crossed several things off the big list because I’d done them, and realized that one page from a meeting “filled with action items” had only four — two of which I’d done.

Not great, but reality was better than my memory. Having supper also helped.

Overall, though, I have to say that I made no progress with Resolution.

Next week is frugality.

Frugality. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.

Two weeks ago, terrible. Last week, not much better. Too many errands running too late, leading to too many meals out. (My scale agrees with that assessment.)

Next week looks like a good one for frugality. Only one morning appointment, and that ends well before lunch.

Weekly Virtue: Review of Order, Prepare for Resolution

Last week was Order.

Order. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.

Physically, some small improvements. While sweeping, I got fed up with the game controllers in front of the TV or falling out of the pile between the TV stand and the corner, and tired of the mess under the fish tank. My son had a small stack of drawers on wheels that he wasn’t using, except the top surface. That’s now in the living room. There isn’t really room for it, and my husband says he has a better solution, but it will do for now.

We also bought a medicine cabinet. The bottles and boxes never got put back in the travel box on the counter, and even when they were, they were hard to read and hard to put away. It was a bit of a jigsaw puzzle. Fingers crossed it gets installed this weekend.

Keeping up with my time commitments, not so good. I joined a small accountability group (3 members, but possibly open to more) and we’re still finding our way. We say what we intend to do, and then what we really did. So far, we all think it’s helping. Our only commitment to each other is to be supportive. One person is trying small hourly posts. (I reply more-or-less daily.) One lists only a few key goals per day. Me, well, I’m verbose. I list my entire day’s plan, then put in time estimates, then make things more realistic. That’s a good exercise, since usually I want to do twice what I have time for. Then I waste time fleshing out the details a bit too much, then chopping them back and trying again…and again…and again.

It was a heavy week for appointments and emotional roller-coasters. (Nothing bad. Major review of life insurance which dragged on for 8 months and two agents. We also saw a specialist in the big city about a little-known but well-established alternative to routine major surgery for a non-scary condition. Routine for a hospital, and non-scary if you’re used to major surgery.) Plus emergency winter clothes shopping for my pre-teen daughter who has her heart set on being a perfect student this year.

Fortunately, I get another stab at it. Next week is Resolution.

Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.

I predict an interesting week. 7 planned events, which is medium for me. Only two deadlines, one of which I’ll finish the work for this week. Fingers crossed I pull ahead on some non-deadline projects!

Weekly Virtue: Review of Silence and Prepare for Order

Review of of Silence:

Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.

Well, I deleted several comments before I sent them, and even skipped the last three revision passes before deleting them. I noted two times where, while I thought what I said was respectful and helpful, it might have been interpreted differently.

Next week is Order:

Order. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.

Uh, have you seen my desk / office / file shelf / craft-pile? They’re slowly getting better again, after a season / year / several years / season of neglect?

I need to be stricter about putting things away. I have a bag for each group. Most things stay in the bag between meetings, but now that organizing is over, many of the things in those bags can be put away. Now that display and advertising season is over, I can put away my crafts and tools. All sorts of smallish things. I’m slowly working at my old files, purging and moving them to the new cabinet, and moving more-used things to the open shelves. Lots of awkward-sized holes during the process!

As for time? I think I have a doable plan for the next few weeks, so long as I don’t get side-tracked. I’ve slowed down or stopped several projects, so I can focus on and maybe finish a few. (I also put the equipment for those hibernating projects away!) Today, though, instead of working, I went to Knit Lit at the library, then helped a friend get her new iPad-mini online and linked to her old iTunes and Kindle accounts.

Letting each part of my business have its time is going to be a challenge.

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