Even the crankiest reporter can't resist a news release full of local flavor and entrepreneurial spice.
Last week I sent my first press release for the personal chef business I'm starting to a small, local paper. I used a template other personal chefs around the country have been successful with. I sent the release by e-mail, because the paper listed an e-mail address for news stories.
The next day the publisher of the paper responded: "Stop sending this trash. We don't print puff." I felt like I had been slapped in the face. Was this a normal response, or is this guy just lacking professionalism and manners? Am I being overly sensitive?
Name withheld, Via e-mail
While we don't believe you committed any gross errors, and the response you got was unusual, there's a lot you can do to get a better reception.
Since this was a local paper, might you have delivered your release in person? Your business is food, so you could have lubricated your reception with a sample. Chances are, this publisher, who may be a one-person shop, is under stress and could use some TLC. If not, the impression he gave of being a lout is true. After all, as a local entrepreneur, you're a potential advertiser and already a reader.
In general, you should send a news release to the person responsible for editing the section of the paper you're targeting. To get that section editor's name, check the paper's masthead or a directory like Bacon's Newspaper Directory or at most public libraries). If the articles have bylines, call or e-mail the reporter and ask whom you should send a news release to and how that person prefers to receive it-whether by mail, e-mail or fax.
In writing a news release, remember you're not writing an ad-you're imparting information. Make sure the editor sees the potential value to readers. Keep the release brief and exciting. Omit most adjectives, use action verbs, and eliminate nonessential descriptions. Give your story local flavor. For example, if you prepare diabetic-safe meals, a statistic on the number of diabetics in your community helps localize your story.
Focus on one point per release and make sure your release answers who, what, when, where, why and how. Organize the information from the most important to the least. Finally, develop an attention-grabbing headline.
Even if your news release doesn't lead to a specific feature, don't be discouraged. If you continue sending interesting, relevant materials, chances are, you'll eventually get attention.
NOTE: Businesses and Chefs mentioned in this article are not affiliated with The Chef Alliance
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BACKGROUND: The Chef Alliance is a membership organisation for Personal Chefs, Private Chefs, Chefs and Caterers, Artisan and Cottage Industry food producers and bakers, Home Cooks, Culinary Instructors, Food Stylists, Chef Instructors and other foodservice professionals across Canada. We support our members in growing strong, successful businesses, through mentorship, peer support, marketing, business savings and liability insurance. We have member Chefs in Toronto, Mississauga, Hamilton, Burlington, Montreal, Quebec City, Vaughan, Markham, Ottawa, Vancouver, Victoria, Richmond, Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Halifax... and many other towns and cities in Canada.
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