Working with the Media: A Guide for Volunteer Organizations and Commissions

When thinking about feature subjects, concentrate on local people and their personal stories. Someone in every volunteer organization or on every municipal commission has a compel-ling story to tell about an issue or opportunity, but most reporters will never find out unless you tell them.

The vital part of any feature story is an interview, and the key question you should look for in any interview is “Why?” Why do you enjoy working with volunteers? Why are trees and parks so important to us? Why is conserving open space important? Why are you concerned about your local creek or river? You should also consider a sidebar or “story within a story” in addition to the feature information. This story tells about an interesting connection or person, and often explores a human-interest angle. Reporters have long recognized that people care about other people and enjoy reading about them.

If a reporter decides to do a feature on a subject you have recommended, be prepared with background information on the nuts and bolts of the organization, issue, or event. For features, taking pictures is almost guaranteed. When features are being written by reporters from daily newspapers, they will always bring along one of their own staff photographers to take pictures, so make the photographs count.

News or Publicity Release (see examples below)

The news release is the most common way to communicate news to the print and broadcast media. News releases are typically 1- or 2-page documents that inform the media about important news or events. News releases can be used to state your position on a particular issue, describe a project or work you are engaged in, publicize recognition you or your organization have received, provide supplemental information on an issue, or announce additions of people or other changes.

The most common question asked about news releases by editors is “who cares?” In other words, why is the information you are offering important? News releases must contain a news or “today” angle: why do people care today? The best news releases tell a compelling, interesting story quickly and stylishly. If you do not have a professional writer to prepare a news release, tell your story simply and clearly. Often, busy editors won’t look beyond the title or first line, so make the lead sentence count. Consider the following examples of catchy titles or lead sentences:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35