Photo by Peter Kaminski on Flickr

It’s Media Relations Week, Day #2 (I skipped Labor Day, but will make it up with a bonus at the end of the week).

Here is today’s question:

“What kind of timeline should you follow when marketing a special event or fundraiser, especially with regards to press releases and community calendars?”

~Elizabeth Day, with For Every Mother and BirthNetwork of Northwest Arkansas

And my answer:

Before you can set your schedule for contacting the press about your event, you have to decide what kind of coverage you want and when you’d ideally like it to appear. Do you want coverage before the event so that people can read about it and buy tickets? Or do you want a reporter or photographer at the event and to write about what happened afterwards? Or both?

Coverage Before the Event

Newspapers often have community calendars in print and online, and radio and TV stations have calendars online. Some will also broadcast upcoming events at the end of their news programming. Find out how far in advance they will list your event and submit your details as early as possible.

If you are looking for more than an event listing and want a feature article in the newspaper, for example, think about what timing makes the most sense. Do you have a firm ticket sales deadline or can people get tickets at the door? Issue a press release 3-5 days before you’d like the coverage to appear. A deadline or the event date itself are timely, and therefore newsworthy.

You can’t just announce your event and expect to get coverage, however (unless you live in a really small media market and you don’t have lots of local competition). You need to come up with a “hook” that makes the event especially newsworthy. Will someone with celebrity status be there? Is there something really out of the ordinary in your silent auction? Pull out a couple of details that are really unusual or interesting and highlight those. A story about a single attendee, speaker, or beneficiary will be more interesting to the media that a general story about a fundraiser.

Coverage After the Event

If you want a reporter and/or photographer to come to the event and cover it as a news story, you can issue a media advisory 5-7 days before the event. A media advisory is not a press release; it’s more like an invitation. It includes a very brief (less than a paragraph) description of the event, followed by the basic logistics, often listed in a Who, What, When, Where format. Be sure to let the press know if they need to contact anyone in particular ahead of time to get a press pass (if not, they’ll assume they can just show up, which is usually fine). Also be sure to note any good photo opportunities. This is essential if you hope to get TV coverage.

You can also issue a press release right after your event, regardless of whether the media attended it or not. If they did attend, they’ll base their coverage on their own experience and only use any new facts or figures you provided in the release. Again, you can’t just say “we held a fundraiser” and expect to get coverage. How much did the event raise? Who won the drawing? Did anything funny or unusual happen at the event? Did you have a record-breaking turnout? Find the most memorable moment or interesting factoid about the event and base your post-event press release on it.

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