Warning! -- this is a somewhat long post with some very useful information
On yesterday's post I extended a challenge to each of you to do something that will not only help the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge become something bigger and better, but also help you in whatever it is that you do in your own life. If you have not read my previous post I hope you will go back to see what I have to say.
Some may have run away from my Saturday post with an "I'm scared" or an "I can't do that" attitude. Others may be pooh-poohing the idea as something that won't work or is nonviable. The ones I'll be addressing in this post are those who believe in themselves and what they can do. I'm talking to those of you who seek success and want the best for themselves.
There are essentially three kinds of people in life. There are those who watch other people achieve their dreams and marvel at their successes or deride those accomplishments. Then there are those who dream dreams and wonder, "This is a great idea--somebody should do this." And finally, there are those who latch on to an idea and run with it, despite any discouragement directed toward their efforts, and they either succeed or they try again until they do. My new challenge to you is directed to those who are part of this last group.
There are many ways to promote something. Those of you who are Tweeting about the Challenge or posting on FaceBook or spreading the word via your blog or some other social media venue are doing a great job and I encourage you to keep this up. However, today I want to address using news media to get the message to the public and what some of the repercussions are in doing this.
Is the Blogging from A to Z Challenge news?
Consider the following:
J.M. who has been confined to a wheelchair since childhood has made friends throughout the world via his ham radio hobby.
Mr. and Mrs. E.J. have cared for eleven different foster children over the past twenty years.
Mr. and Mrs. H.C. celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with a trip to Myrtle Beach, NC.
The S. family recently returned from a two week vacation to New York City where they visited many famous attractions and saw a Broadway show.
A wallet lost by W.W. was found by his dog.
Eight students from M. High School will be participating in a Junior Achievement conference to be held in N. in February.
What do the above have in common? They are all actual stories I have seen in a local paper. Were they important? To the people involved, perhaps. Were they interesting? Debatable.
Now what about these:
Local author joins worldwide blogging challenge.
Student bloggers at M. High School join challenge to Blog through the alphabet.
Popular poetess composes a poem per day during the month of April.
Long lost friends are reunited through blogging challenge.
Would you be interested in these stories? Do you think others might like reading about these as much as they would someone's vacation? If the stories were well presented, they would certainly get someone's attention.
What is news anyway?
A newspaper delivers what is termed "hard news" and "soft news". Hard news is the major stuff that reporters are busy digging up. These are the events that effect us or other people in potentially big ways. This is the news that appears on the front pages and oftentimes receives extensive coverage.
Much of the rest of the paper uses filler material in the form of soft news. A lot of this soft news comes from press releases that people send in to reporters or news desks. Newspapers rely on these press releases to give added content to the newspaper.
If accepted, the story will often go into the paper as it has been received or with minor revisions. Occasionally, a reporter may find the story to be interesting enough to follow up and get more information. It may be expanded into a feature which can oftentimes include photographs. Newspapers welcome press releases. They are part of what is news.
What do press releases cover?
Community news --- The things that people, businesses or organizations in the community are doing.
Upcoming events -- Things that are going to be happening that people will want to be watching for.
Human interest-- Personalized stories about individuals or groups that are inspiring or entertaining.
Any of these could potentially relate to the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. You can put your own personal spin on the story of the Challenge. In the third person, tell the readers who you are and what you do. Connect this information about you to the grander scope of this Challenge that involves participants from throughout the world.
What to include in your press release:
Make sure you drop in a few things about what you want to make known about yourself. If you've recently written a book or have one soon to be released, mention it. Or if you are involved with a particular cause or charity, include something about that. This can even be a time to discreetly give a plug to your business or a product. Just be sure it somehow fits in with the Challenge news so that your press release doesn't sound like a blatant advertising promotion for you and your products. A newspaper would prefer that you buy advertising for that. Include the address to your blog so readers can come to see what you've been talking about. Feel free to leave mine as well if you want readers to be directed to the information about the challenge and the list of participants.
Remember that when writing a press release about yourself you should make it sound like it has been written by someone other than you. Give the vital information without going into too much detail. Put a good spin on your own story and connect it with something larger than just you so readers can better identify and feel that they are a part of your story.
You're a writer--make the story seem interesting and relevant. However a press release should also be fairly short--maybe 200 to 400 words. Leave a contact so they can reach you if they want more information. This is how feature stories start. A feature writer hears a story and decides if it's worth expanding upon or even adding pictures.
Why would you want to be in the news:
As I've already said, most of you have something that you are involved with that you want people to know about. A news story can start that ball rolling. You will often gain added search engine presence with the story. If you are trying to build a platform or even a resume, it doesn't hurt to have news stories about you circulating--if they're about something good of course. And a news story looks good in a scrapbook or even framed on your wall.
Connecting yourself to something bigger like Blogging from A to Z makes your presence a little more significant and adds interest to your story. There is something fun and uplifting about seeing your name in print and knowing that others will be reading it. If you are blogging, you are probably trying to have your name recognized in some way. Being in the news is another way of being noticed.
More awareness of the Challenge will provide incentive to do our best if we know more people may be watching us. Our writing may improve and gain more exposure. We will expand our potential for making connections with others who don't normally see our blogs. This will increase our networking opportunities for the future.
In upcoming posts I will talk more about the press release and how to get it into the right hands. You can do the research yourself as well. Google "press releases" and you can find plenty of information on how to format and compose your release. If you do a search of the newspaper or other media that you'd like to submit to, you can find out about what procedures they require and who to contact. It's all out there and it doesn't take long to find the most pertinent information.
Try it--it's a writing exercise that will help hone your skills. And if you haven't had to send out press releases already, someday you might need to. That is, of course, unless your press agent does that for you.
Can I see a show of hands of everyone who has a press agent?
Addendum: sample press release--
This has already been a very long post, but Alex J. Cavanaugh asked me to include a sample press release which I will add here. I may include additional samples in the future. I am not formatting it like it should be--you can find formatting information if you look up "press release format" on Google.
Local Author Joins Worldwide Blog Event
Alex J. Cavanaugh, author of the novel CassaStar which is now enjoying a successful release, is going to take a break from writing his next book to participate in the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge with hundreds of other bloggers from around the world.
The local author began blogging a year ago at the advice of his publisher Dancing Lemur Press. Since starting his blog, he has accumulated a legion of fans he affectionately refers to as “Alex’s Army”.
The turning point in amassing his army of blog followers was in April of 2010 when he joined in the A to Z Blogging Challenge that was started by fellow blogger Arlee Bird from Los Angeles.
“Last April, I was a new blogger,” says Cavanaugh. “It was the best thing I could've done for my blog. I got to know so many awesome people and those of us who participated became like family. We grew and stretched together. And we had a blast in the process!”
Poetess and blogger Yvonne Lewis from England is also sold on the concept. She will be returning again this April to match last year’s feat of twenty-six poems during the month with each one themed with a letter of the alphabet.
“I am so pleased that there is to be another A to Z,” said Yvonne. “Through last years challenge I gained more fans. It was fun and it brought a lot of people together via our computers. I wouldn't have missed it for the world and I will be doing it again this year.”
Due to Alex Cavanaugh’s enthusiasm for the A to Z Challenge and his rapport with so many other bloggers, he was invited this year along with six other bloggers from throughout the United States and England to co-host the event.
“Last year the Challenge was so popular that I knew that 2011 would be more than I could handle by myself,” said Arlee Bird. “I asked some of the best bloggers I knew if they would help me out this year—the response was an enthusiastic ‘Yes!’”
Cavanaugh expects that 2012 will be even bigger, but first they’ll have to make it through this April. All bloggers are invited to join in and anyone is welcome to read through the progress of the Challenge. You can visit Alex J. Cavanaugh’s blog and find out more about the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge at alexjcavanaugh.blogspot.com.
I am not a professional copywriter. Some of you may have a better grasp of writing these things than I do. I welcome any corrections or comments concerning the above sample. I will say that from my experience, something like the above is usually adequate enough copy to be accepted by a newspaper. Just make sure you include contact information in case they want to take it a step further and do a feature article.
Also it's not a bad idea to include a publicity photo of yourself (sorry Alex). Just like it's suggested for blogs, newspapers often like to have a picture to go with the story.
I sincerely hope that some of you will consider putting something together today and try to get it submitted somewhere this week. I will be posting more on this topic in the next few days. Good luck!