Activities at your park are capable of capturing the public’s attention, as I noticed recently when National Public Radio picked up a story about what used to be called Hebron Maine’s Redneck Olympics. It seems that the U.S. Olympic Committee caught wind of the long-running event and made the organizers drop the word “Olympics” from the name of the event, which they are now calling the “Redneck Blank.” If you believe in the adage that “all publicity is good publicity,” the Hebron event just got a major boost.
Without entering into the realm of trademark infringement, there are probably events at your park that are just as newsworthy. No, I am not talking about how you have celebrated Christmas in July for almost as long as Santa Claus has been alive; however, events that are either topical or unique constitute the material for press releases.
Take a look at your park’s activities schedule, and keep opportunities for publicity in mind when planning next year’s events. Here are just a few categories that might be of interest to your local newspapers, radio, and television stations:
- An anniversary celebration. Is it your 20th year of ownership? Promote it!
- Charitable events and fundraisers.
- Unique or unusual events, such as the “Redneck Blank.”
- Events where you involve other local businesses, such as wineries, craft breweries, and wildlife demonstrations.
- Groups or clubs rallying at your park.
- A park-wide “yard sale” that is open to the public.
- Noteworthy entertainers booked to perform at your park.
- Halloween events such as haunted houses.
By definition, local news media reach out to a local audience. Considering how 50% of a typical park’s demographics might include guests who live within the local market, local publicity can go a long way to generate short-term business and long-term awareness.
Partially due to laziness and partially due to staff cutbacks, the news media love to be spoon-fed stories with even an indirect news angle. On a national scale, we are bombarded with what is reported as “news” but is often little more than carefully crafted press releases. These include everything from stories about new products (such as the latest iPhone or the latest pharmaceutical drug) to stories about the candidates in the upcoming election that come directly from the campaigns themselves. On the local level, the news media love to promote “feel good” stories with a local angle, particularly on weekends (when your events are more likely to take place), which are otherwise considered “slow news days” when major businesses are closed.
Here are a few tips on how to craft
an effective press release and how to send it.
First of all, follow a conventional press release format. You will find templates in Microsoft Word. Edit your release so that it fits onto a single page, with your full contact information at the top of the page. Next follows bold text reading “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE”. (Yes, you can prepare and submit a release in advance, indicating a future release date, but immediacy and news go hand-in-hand.) Follow this with a brief yet comprehensive title, followed by your location, the date, and the body of your release.
The body of your release should be carefully crafted, written in the third person, and cover the 5 W’s: who, what, where, why and when. A quotation or two is always a plus, and you will significantly increase the odds of your release being picked up if you include one or two high-quality photos (perhaps taken at the previous year’s event.)
Send your release via e-mail to the local news editor of each media outlet. You can generally find that information online; however, until you have compiled your list of contacts, you may need to make a phone call to obtain the name and e-mail address of the proper person. Your release should be in the body of your e-mail, with copies of the release attached to the e-mail in both PDF and Microsoft Word format, along with your accompanying photo(s). Do not call afterward to see if your release was received or, worse yet, to ask for an explanation, in the event that it was not used.
Keep in mind that your release should be presented in a manner that makes it easy to use. If essential information is missing, you will have seriously limited the likelihood of usage. A reporter is unlikely to have the time to track you down to obtain missing details on a borderline news story. On the other hand, if a reporter asks for more information or offers to attend your event, be prepared with answers and be ready to make a positive impression. Particularly if one of your local TV stations is willing to cover your event, be sure that everything involved will look its best.
Once you establish a relationship with your local media – as well as establishing a reputation for reliability – your first media coverage is unlikely to be your last.
This post was written by Peter Pelland