Laurel Smith, APR and Sharold Arnold of Gravina Smith & Matte are joined by Kara Minoui of Wragg & Casas. Kara is the chapter’s Vice President of Communications and responsible for the chapter’s press and media relations.

Sharon opened the discussion with a very important question – is your news actually newsworthy? It’s a very necessary question to answer, and one which the media will ask before deciding whether or not to run your release and/or develop your news into a story.

Laurel is going over the standard AP format for press releases and handed out a sample press release to illustrate. Make it as easy as possibe for the media to pick up your release and run it with little or no changes necessary. Have someone who knows nothing about the release read it to help you determine if you have communicated clearly. Laurel encourages the audience to pick up a copy of the AP Stylebook, the journalists’ Bible, at a local book store (+/- $20). She is hitting the high points of proper format.

Kara: The way you distribute your release affects your credibility. Best practice is to send the relase out individually. If that’s not possible, use your email list in the bcc field – DON’T use the cc field to copy everyone you are distributing to. Put NEWS RELEASE in the subject field. Watch the size of your photos if you are sending accompanying photos, no larger than 1mg, but a minimum resolution of 300 dpi. Watch your bounce backs and correct your personal media list accordingly.

Sharon: Write in the third person!

Q: Should you ever thank a reporter for their coverage?
Laurel: Absolutely, especially if it he/she has taken your release and developed it into a feature story. Be sure to cc their supervisor. Key your thank you on what they specifically did that benefitted you, not just “thanks for the great story”.

Sharon: It’s all about the relationships. A thank you I sent to a photographer has turned into a lunch with a magazine editor.

Q: Should you send attachments?
Laurel: We do both, attach a document and paste into the text.
Aside from Susan Bennett: For instance I sent out a release to the News-Press today and had a conversation about the fact that they use Macs and cannot open newer formats of Word documents.

Q: What about using read receipts?
Laurel: Perhaps to a specific reporter but in general I’d say no.

Q: Follow up calls?
Laurel: No.

Q: How do we know who to send it to?
A: Buy the chapter’s 2009 Media Guide and Directory!

Q: Online press releases? Optimizing releases for the Web?
A: That’s a whole ‘nother panel discussion later today! (Laughter)

Q: General rule of thumb for timeliness?
A: Depends on the event, and on when you want it to hit. Give dailies a week; monthlies 90-120 days ahead.

Cindy brought Susan Bennett, APR, CPRC and Vicki Moreland of the Lee County Port Authority up to complement the discussion, since their topic was “Talking to the Media”