We receive numerous press releases (PRs) at Columbia Gorge News, but based on the questions we get regarding everything from word count to run dates to content, the process of getting a PR into print appears to be something of a mystery.
Luckily for all of us, it’s really quite simple.
Let’s start with the most frequently asked question: What is an acceptable length?
A ballpark figure is somewhere between 300-600 words. Fun fact: 300 words equals nine column inches. You can see how quickly column inches add up as the word count increases. Our newspaper has a very finite space, so shorter is better — we know your PR is very important, but it is not the only one we’ve received this week. And the contributors of those other PRs believe theirs are also very important.
That’s not to say you can’t submit a PR that is 750 words; it’s simply a fair warning that if you do, your release may be cut as space requires. (It’s possible it will get cut anyway.)
Which brings me to this point: PRs always run as space allows. Always. No one on our staff is going to guarantee you a run date. Because as soon as we do, we’re going to get a breaking news story or find out an ad that’s been mocked (aka placed on the working page design) as 2-by-5-inches is really 3-by-10 and your PR will have to be pulled. Until we send a paper to press, it’s all up in the air as far as content goes. I have had finished full pages be reworked an hour before deadline and seen 75 total column inches shrink to 25.
You can suggest a run date. And we will try our best to accommodate your request. But we will not guarantee we can make it happen. Even if you’ve purchased an ad or series of ads. Thank you, incidentally, for supporting our small community newspaper. But again, PRs run only as space allows. Ad staff can schedule your notice for whatever day you want. News staff cannot. In many cases, the worst that happens is that your PR goes online before it hits print.
I know, that’s boring business talk. Let’s move on to the actual writing of the PR.
The press releases we receive vary from handwritten notes to printed fliers to three-page emails with photos embedded in the text (please don’t do that. Send photos separately!). All are fine, but there are time limitations associated with each.
For handwritten notes, be sure that your writing is legible. I am fairly good at deciphering handwriting, but I’m not an expert. And I’d hate to accidentally transcribe your information incorrectly. There is the additional possibility of a time constraint on our end. Things move fast in the newsroom and we don’t always have time to transcribe a notice as soon as we get it. It may get moved to the bottom of the pile, so to speak.
Fliers usually give a concise account of an event. But we do not print fliers in the body of the newspaper — that is considered an ad. This means we have to transcribe the information to news format. And again, we don’t always have time to do so. That could potentially push back the publication date of your item.
Submissions are preferable by email (that just means that you’ve written a release and you’re sending the copy to us electronically). Pro tip: Send us a Word doc and attach photos separately — 1MB or higher is recommended for print quality. This is the easiest on our end, which generally means a quicker turnaround for getting the notice into the body of the newspaper. We edit PRs for AP style and length. And sometimes we have to rewrite a release because ... well, let’s just say some of what we receive is a little rough.
One mistake people often make is to begin a PR with why the reader should care about the topic rather than first explaining what it is — the Who, When, Where, What and/or How. Get those details out of the way before you start in on the Why. That’s what readers are looking for: The basics first.
Trisha’s Ramble Squad will hold its next meeting on this date at this time, probably at Dog River Coffee. The squad will discuss why there are more dogs on social media than cats and how to rectify this problem. “Cats are awesome,” said Trisha Walker, founder. “We feel they need more representation.”
Hood River Editor Kirby Neumann-Rea would like me to mention at this point to please, please not start your PR with the words, “We are pleased/excited/happy to announce.” We always take such wording out. Also, statements of opinion need to be attributed; we know your product, business or event is a standout, but include the name of a spokesperson who says that.
One more tip: When in doubt, give us a call or pop us an email. We can help — we do this all the time!