From: James Brooks
Some guidelines for publicizing iris:
1. Non-profit groups get more ink than individuals. Newsrooms get several people every day wanting to get free advertising, or to get their picture in the paper. They bring in giant turnips, giant pumpkins, giant weeds. News people generally treat self-seekers with good humor but not a lot of respect.
2. Newspapers are interested in printing anything with with local NEWS value. They have little interest in club publicity geared only to other members of the club, but not the outside world.
3. Newspapers, generally do not take pictures of staged events: ribbon cutting, ground breakings. Small local market television stations and weekly newspapers, on the other hand, have no shame.
4. Daily newspapers rarely print columns by non-staffers, but many lifestyle editors welcome tip sheets on care and feeding of iris or any other flower, particularly if it is timely. Weekly newspapers and shopper news sheets, however, are very open to anybody reliable who will do anything for free.
5. Size of a daily newspaper tells you a lot about where to start. If the daily circulation is under 15,000, phone and ask to talk with the city editor. Tell him you have a news release, and ask for the FAX number or e-mail address. If your paper is about 50,000 daily circ., ask to talk to the lifestyles editor. Same questions. If your daily paper is the New York Times, better have a national show to talk about. Seriously, even the big papers have suburban editions and people who do garden stuff - but it may be a garden editor.
6. FAXing in a fact sheet with a contact phone number is every bit as effective as writing a full-length release. Stress the basic Who, What, When, Where, How information - your What can be a single sentence. The editor then has a sheet of paper to hand to a reporter, who takes it as an assignment.
7. If you have an event and all that appears is a two or three graph brief, rejoice! You've just made the best read part of the newspaper.
8. What about front page color photos? If you've got something that is related to an event during bloom season, talk with the city editor about your event at least 10 days in advance and suggest a color photo. Have a garden and contact people set up. If the editor has the option of running it anytime during the week when there isn't a newsphoto of a major news event, you might make the prime spot in the paper.
9. Think of what readers want to read about. Create a How-to event with your club involving iris: controlling leaf spot, iris borer or rhizome rot, or pollinating your own iris, preparing cut flowers for table or show, fertilization and mulching, and hold an educational clinic. That's the best way to get new people into your club. Take down their name and phone number.
10. News gathering is a world of immediacy and deadlines. If you want something for the weekend, get it in on Monday or Tuesday of that week. By Friday that section of the paper is probably already made up. Meet your deadlines. If making an initial editorial contact, two weeks is a good time span. If you are doing the National Show, a fact sheet folder and schedule should be out about a month in advance. Don't worry about television. The program manager makes his assignments from the daily newspaper in many markets. Easy way to find out - watch the evening news with the morning paper in your lap and see how many items they got from the paper. So much for immediacy. If I appear chauvenistic about tv, call me prejudiced, call me a print media guy, but opinions come from experience and what we do for a living is largely a matter of choice.
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