We also promised a bunch of ‘how to’ posts – How to lobby your councillor, How to write a press release How to write a letter to the Editor, How to write a FOIA, How to design a meeting (facilitation is a whole other game).
Here’s the first one – on press releases. Let us know what you think, and if you have other tips, let us know
A few things to remember before we begin
- Journalists are super super busy
- They are NOT (usually) experts in your particular issue.
- The easiest way to get their sustained attention is not twitter trolling or accosting them in the street, but writing a press release.
- Press releases have been around for a century (they were invented by a railroad company trying to control bad press over a train disaster that was totes their fault, but I digress). Journalists get dozens (at least) of press releases a day, mostly from PR companies and from government bodies. There’s an agreed format for them, and they are a good way of getting relevant info over quickly. Most news stories deal with who, what, why, when questions in their first paragraph, and press releases follow the same format.
A press release has to
- Be short (more than a page, and your chances of ending up in the bin rise exponentially)
- Have a clear, grabby headline that explains what the conflict is
- Explain whether it is for immediate release or ‘embargoed’ (which means they’re not supposed to use the info you have sent them until after the time you put on the press release. This is so your website or whatever gets first dibs, but they can quickly do a story that makes it look like they have their fingers on the pulse.
- Have an introductory paragraph that explains who, what, where, when, why
- Include a useable quote (max of three or four sentences) from a named individual
Includes further information if editors want to find out more (websites, background info)
- Include contact details (mobile phone, twitter) for someone who can act as a spokesperson for the group (ideally the same person as was quoted in the body of the press release.
Ultimately though, if you are going to get media attention this
- Is going to take time (months, not weeks)
- Will involve you building relationships with journalists
- Will be undercut if you send too many press releases, too many bad ones.
So, nothing like an ever so slightly tongue-in-cheek worked example. (albeit with a too long quote) from our good friends at Castle Grayskull, aka ‘The Town Hall’
Title: Council gives climate critics 23 thousand pounds
For immediate release
Manchester City Council is giving the most vehement critics of its climate change action twenty three thousand pounds, no strings attached. The move comes as the public relations efforts of the Council to burnish its reputation have all spectacularly backfired (1)
The council is arranging for the money – a grand for every year that its leader, Sir Richard Leese, has been in charge – to be transferred immediately. The recipient organisation is Climate Emergency Manchester (2), which has released a series of reports that have intensely irritated the Council’s leadership.
Sir Richard Leese said “They have got us bang to rights. The claim of a 48% reduction in the council’s own emissions that we have been making is indeed, as they have pointed out, simply a by-product of the last ten years of austerity. We have shown zero real leadership over the last ten years to create a ‘low carbon culture. 23 grand is nothing compared to the hundreds of thousands we have spaffed against the wall on that community interest company pretending to be an “Agency’ I feel like giving someone a clip round the ear. Personally, I have known about the importance of climate change and local authority collaboration with citizens since 1994, and have done nothing.”
The Council hopes that the money will corrupt CEM and bring it into the fold of tame fig-leaf organisations that it has created and nurtured to avoid scrutiny.
Notes to editors
Multiple puff pieces fed to the Manchester Evening News have been met, rightly, with derision on social media. Sadly, we now realise that cobbling together all the funding from various irrelevant schemes and coming up with a big number doesn’t fool people like it used to.
(2) Climate Emergency Manchester was founded in March 2019. There are now five core group members (despite what Richard Leese said recently) and they are an absolute pain in the arse.
This would be sent out to tv stations, radio stations, websites and even to newspapers. One of them would pick it up and get a react quote from Climate Emergency Manchester. Then a story would appear like this.
Campaigners sensationally reject ‘blatant climate hush money’ from Council.
Manchester City Council’s efforts to buy off climate opponents has spectacularly back-fired today. Reacting to the Council’s offer of 23 thousand pounds, a spokesperson from the campaigning group Climate Emergency Manchester said “they can take their 23 grand and shove it where the sun doesn’t shine, like between the ears of Councillor [redacted on legal advice].”
The Council had offered the money in the hope of rendering Climate Emergency Manchester another vacuous ‘fig-leaf’ organisation. Announcing the offer, Council Leader had admitted the council’s claims of steep reductions were ‘simply a by-product of the last ten years of austerity”
Climate Emergency,Manchester, which has recently released several reports, one of which accused the Council of moving at the speed of a dead tortoise on climate change will continue submitting Freedom of Information Act requests and linking individuals and groups across the city to help create a socially just rapid transition to a zero carbon society.
“First they ignored us, then they smeared us. We knew their chequebook would be along soon enough, offering blatant climate hush money . It may have worked on [redacted on legal advice] but we want action. Richard Leese should put the money towards his retirement, which is LONG overdue. Twenty five years of words is enough – we feel the need, the need for deeds.”
The Council is reported to be considering its options. A spokesperson said that It knows some guys who drink at the City Arms who arrange serious – even fatal – “accidents” for very reasonable rates, cash in hand