Getting Press Coverage
Getting a story in the local press is easier than you think; local news papers like to report what is happening in their area, particularly if its new, unusual or good for a cause.
Publicity can help increase membership in your group, and it is good for Freegle overall, so you have a valuable role to play. These guidelines should help you get started and cover the following topics.
(For a condensed version see Getting media coverage)
- 1 Potential stories
- 2 Creating a media list for your area
- 3 Prepare your story – write a press release
- 4 Getting your story to the papers
- 5 Photographs
- 6 Photo call
- 7 Talking to the press
- 8 After the Event
- 9 Sharing your press coverage
- 10 Giving interviews on radio or TV
- 11 Interviews
- 12 Questions and Answers
Journalists and PR people talk about news angles and news hooks, here are some examples of things which could be reasons to contact the media.
- The Launch of a new group
- When membership of a local group hits a good number eg 500
- If a local celebrity, MP or Councillor joins your group and they are willing to help promote Freegle
- Unusual wants or gifts which could make a quirky story for the local paper – keep a note of examples
- Collect facts and figures: journalists like fascinating facts - the most popular gifted item, largest item, smallest item etc.
- Photo opportunities: would the gifting make a good photograph (assuming the participants agree)
Have a look at Quote Bank to see some examples of items offered, stories and statistics.
Occasionally you will be sent template releases from Freegle which you can adapt for papers in your area by inserting local details.
Creating a media list for your area
If you already know the names of your local papers www.mediauk.com will link you to their websites, give email addresses and phone numbers. (Or you can look in the paper itself.)
To find the local papers which cover your area go to the Newspaper Society website www.nsdatabase.co.uk You can search this website by town or county. It will have links to the papers’ websites where you can look up contact details. A few don’t have websites but the Newspaper Society database gives phone numbers.
This research is a bit time consuming, but you only have to do it once. Add reporters’ names, phone numbers and email addresses to the media list as you learn them – it is valuable information.
Prepare your story – write a press release
Writing a press release is quite easy - the trick is to keep it simple.
Remember the purpose: to publicise your Freegle group, and increase membership by telling a story that will get people interested.
Use plain English. Keep your sentences short and to the point. Keep paragraphs punchy, and start a new paragraph every time you make a new point.
Jot down the key facts you want to include – it is easy to get tied up with the words and forget to include basics like the website address.
The text of a press release shouldn’t be no longer than one and a half pages of A4.
If you have further information, add it at the end in a section called Notes to Editors.
Type the release in 1.5 spacing, and use the Freegle template release without altering the design.
What to include
The first paragraph of a press release should answer questions like who, what, where, when, why. Who is doing what and why, where are they doing it and when.
“Freegle Trafford is celebrating its the 500th Freegle recruit, Dave Dynamo, who gifted six sacks of donkey manure to Joe Bloggs for his Kingsbury allotment on Saturday.”
The headline is a shorter version of the first paragraph:
“Freegle Brent celebrates its 500th member – with a gift of manure”
(Sometimes it is easier to write the headline after the release and sometimes the headline is obvious.)
Subsequent paragraphs can be used to give more information:
There are some standard paragraphs about Freegle for you to use (see end).
Include any interesting facts about your group. When was it formed, how many members you have, unusual gifts that have been made etc.
Include quotes from people that the paper can use (as if the journalist has asked the question). When writing quotes give full name and any title eg Alison Smith, Brent Freegle group organiser or Joe Bloggs, founder member of Freegle.
Lay the quote out like this:
Newest recruit to Freegle, Dave Dynamo, owner of Dave’s Donkeys said: “bla bla bla.”
If the quote is continuing to a second paragraph, omit the closing quotation mark (above) but put it at the end of this quote (below).
Dave added: “bla bla bla.”
The quotes can reinforce points that have already been made in the press release, but in a ‘spoken’ way, and express personal opinions in support of the press release content. Quotes should not veer away from the subject of the press release.
At the end of the release include your contact name and telephone number and email address for the journalist if they have any questions.
In Notes to editors include contact details you are happy to have published: the website address or phone number for enquiries.
A sample press release can be found here.
Getting your story to the papers
Make a note of publication dates and copy deadlines for the newspapers you are going to target.
Time your press release to fit with newspaper deadlines - a paper published on Thursday will have a copy deadline on Tuesday so don’t ring up at the last minute; get the information to the reporter by Monday or preferably the end of the week before so he or she has time to write a piece.
- The most efficient approach is to telephone the news desk, briefly explain the story and the response is almost always “have you got some information you can email me?” At that point ask the reporter’s name, direct line if they have one, and check the email address.
You can also explain any photo opportunities there may be, or if you have a picture.
- Alternatively you can email your press release to all the new desk email addresses on your contact list. But you really need to follow up with a phone call to check your press release has been received, and find out if they are interested in the story.
It is highly likely that the person who picks up the phone won’t have seen your press release, and you may be asked to re-send it. Be prepared to talk about the story and have access to a computer so you can email the release to them.
A good photograph can increase the chances of your story getting coverage. And sometimes an interesting photograph, a caption, plus the Freegle website address will be all you need.
Local newspapers like photographs but have tight budgets. They will be interested in seeing your pictures if you have some to accompany the release. You can take the photographs in advance and have one or two ready to send.
Ideally taken with a digital camera, the image will need to be a jpeg with a resolution of 300 dpi, but the file must not be too large eg over 1 meg. (If this sentence doesn’t mean anything to you perhaps there is someone in the group who might like the role of photographer to help you out.)
Any picture you send must be captioned. For example the jpeg file name could read “Brent Freegle manure”, with an email saying who or what is in the picture:
“Retired teacher Joe Bloggs (r) from Kilburn, receiving his gift of manure from new member Dave Dynamo (l) who runs Dave’s Donkeys in Willesden, pictured at Kingsbury allotments with Dobbin, who did all the hard work.”
The journalist may ask if the paper can take their own photograph, which might involve you (in the example attached) getting Joe, Dave and Dobbin back to the allotment.
Or you could decide in advance to organise a photo call for all your local media rather than issue a release; these are a bit more complicated but are worth it for a one off event like a launch. This would involve sending out a photo call notice - basically an invitation - to papers in advance and having a press release prepared for the day. You will need to contact the paper’s news desks and get it ‘in the diary’ the week before, by providing enough information to sound tempting. There is a sample photo call notice here
Things that need to be done on the day:
- Nominate someone to meet any press or photographers that arrive, who can make introductions and explain what is going on. He or she should have spare copies of the press release.
- Make time for a press photographer they will know what makes a good picture and will ask people to pose.
- Have a variety of props (typical gifted items) handy.
- Photographers always prefer to take the pictures outside in natural light.
- Don’t be offended if only two or three people are included in the shot, large group photographs do not work in newspapers.
Talking to the press
Everyone involved in the event should read your press release, and be clear what the key messages are so they can talk about what is happening without waffling.
Have your spokesperson practice explaining what the event is all about. If you are the spokesperson, get someone to ask you: rehearsing out loud will feel odd but it really helps.
After the Event
Take pictures yourselves so if the local papers don’t show up (it can happen) you have a picture to send them, with a short caption explaining what happened and who is in the picture. They may still use it.
Sharing your press coverage
When you get a story in the local paper, please share it with everyone in Freegle. We want to increase the amount of cuttings which get into the Media Archive, so if you have a scanner, please email a jpeg of the press cutting(s) to firstname.lastname@example.org, or if it appeared online, you could send a link.
If you have a newspaper cutting but no scanner, post a copy to me at work and I’ll scan it.
name and address and fax here?
Giving interviews on radio or TV
Radio interviews can be done in the studio, ‘down the line’ ie with you on the telephone, or on location. Interviews can be live, or pre-recorded.
When accepting an invitation to do an interview, ask if it will be live or not, if anyone else is being interviewed on the same topic, and if there are any specific questions the interviewer wants to cover.
If radio comes to you, it will involve one, possibly two people, with a tape recorder in a shoulder bag and a microphone.
If you go to them radio studios tend to be small, cluttered, windowless and air conditioned, and interviewees sit round a table and each has a microphone in front of them.
Pre-recorded interviews are easier because if you make a complete hash of an answer you can ask to do it again. They will edit what you say anyway.
You will not get much air time – maybe a couple of minutes - which is why planning your answers is so important.
TV will be on location or in the studio and requires more forward planning than radio. If TV is coming to you, expect a minimum of three people – camera, sound and producer/director plus you may have a reporter, and there will be a certain amount of disruption. TV prefers to work outside in natural light and may still use additional lighting.
If filming must be indoors, clear some space before the crew arrive.
Keep a selection of props (gifts) handy.
When the crew has set up, take a final look around to make sure there are no empty mugs, cardigans on backs of chairs, silly photos on the wall etc.
In most cases filming will be recorded and edited. (Live TV involves an outside broadcast unit - truck with satellite dish - these are valuable resources, usually used for breaking news.)
If you go to the studio, a researcher or the programme PA will be your contact beforehand and on the day. Ask as many questions as you like about what to wear, what to bring, who else is being interviewed, what questions are being asked and so on. The more you know the better you can prepare.
With radio and especially TV, you may be dropped at the last minute if something more exciting happens. It is very annoying.
Tip one: Prepare. Faced with a microphone or camera, your mind could go completely blank. To avoid ums and errs as you try to martial your thoughts, some prepared responses will help.
You will not be going head-to-head with Jeremy Paxman or John Humphries. The sort of questions you will be asked will be simple ‘open’ questions designed to get you talking, but it helps if you think in advance how you will communicate Freegle information in interesting nuggets (sound bites).
“Tell me about Freegle in your area” is a huge question and there are lots of things you could say. Planning an answer to questions like this - and practising them out loud - will make you feel confident and sound fluent.
Like a politician, you can use your rehearsed answers even if the question is slightly different!
Have facts, figures, and website address memorised. On radio you can have a card with a phone number and a website address written down. But the general rule is don’t hold any papers which a) rustle and b) will shake visibly if you are even a bit nervous.
These are possible questions: put answers into your own words and say them out loud to check how they sound.
- Tell me about Freegle in xxx?
- What is Freegle all about?
- So what should listeners do if they are interested in joining?
- What is the most unusual gift that has been offered?
- What sorts of things are offered on Freegle?
- So what impact is Freegle having on the environment?
Tip two: Give your answer then stop talking. Wait for the next question rather than feeling you have to fill air time. This will also make editing easier.
Tip three: Smile, even on radio, as it will make your voice sound friendlier.
Tip four: Talk slowly and remember to breathe!
Questions and Answers
Q Tell me about Freegle
Freegle gives individuals, businesses, and organisations like charities, schools or community groups a way to "recycle" unwanted household, office and other items, using an internet forum. It was started in 2009 and already there are over 200 [check website as this number goes up all the time] groups in the UK and we have over one milion members.
Each month members of Freegle in the UK prevent xxx tonnes of re-usable goods from going into landfill sites.
Q What is Freegle all about?
It’s a nationwide ‘gifting’ movement which started in 2009. Freegle’s aims are to reduce waste by re-using things, to save resources and ease the burden on landfills. This was done by creating an internet-based group who could "recycle" items they no longer need, rather than throw them away.
Q Tell about your local group
XXX Freegle group is run by volunteers. We were formed in xxx and now have xxx members. There is an internet site where our members can list “offers of items’ or ‘wants for items’.
Freegle doesn’t have many rules but the main ones are:
- items must be given away for free, and collected from the gifter
- everything must be legal
- and it keeps something out of a landfill site
Q So what should people do if they are interested in joining?
If you have something around the house, shed, attic or garage that you think might be useful to somebody else and want to give it away for free go to [give local website address] and join us.
And if your area doesn’t have a group yet, you could apply to start one just visit www.iovefreegle.org to find out more.
Q What sorts of things are offered on Freegle?
It tends to be household goods the things we all keep in our attics, sheds and garages, or need to get rid of if we buy something new – fridges and washing machines, sofas, tables and chairs, beds, computer equipment, books, toys and clothes. But people can make requests, if there is something specific they would like.
Q What is the most unusual gift that has been offered?
We get all sorts of things small and large: occasionally we get cars, and there has been a caravan, a stack of coat hangers and even hair clippers. Other things that spring to mind are an artificial Christmas tree, rabbit hutch, ceiling light and fan, baby basket and even a small tool shed.
Q So what impact is Freegle having on the environment?
Freegle is one of the easiest ways an individual can make a positive contribution to the environment, by helping reduce landfill.
Freegle members save 557 tonnes from landfill each month. Now there are half a million members in the UK, the number of items being given an extended life each year will be about 2.1 million – equivalent to 6685 tonnes saved from landfill.
Recycling including Freegle has already helped tackle climate change by cutting the UK's carbon emissions from 25 million to 15 million tonnes a year. The recycling industry body WRAP says the benefit of keeping waste out of landfill sites has been equivalent to taking 3.5 million cars off the road.
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