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
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
- 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.)
- Answer all the key questions of who, what, when, where and why.
- Whenever possible, submit the information electronically. If
submitting information by fax, always telephone afterwards to
make sure it was received.
- Follow the newspaper's instructions on where to submit information.
When in doubt, send it to the editor.
- Honour the geographical boundaries of the newspaper. Remember,
they are serving a specific community. Anything taking place beyond
their "territory" will not receive coverage.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
“putting your ideas in writing”
For lists of Canadian community newspapers and other media (online/as
a database/in print) see:
Names & Numbers or Sources
databases and mailing lists.
Calendar (online event calendar for the media)