Get media coverage this October
Download this kit in full as a PDF, including templates for press releases and letters.
Libraries Week is the annual showcase of the best that UK libraries of all kinds have to offer. From Monday 9 to Saturday 14 October everyone is encouraged to discover what their library can do for them.
The theme for Libraries Week is ‘discovery’, with the message: ‘discover something new’.
What this toolkit is for
This toolkit provides an introduction to getting the message out about your library and the activities you are running for Libraries Week to the media.
Media coverage is an important way of reaching your community and raising awareness in the lead-up to and after your events.
The toolkit has advice, tips and templates to help you share your plans and Libraries Week news stories with your key local, community or sector press. It’s a good idea to use this kit in conjunction with our Libraries Week marketing toolkit.
Working with the media is a conversation and we hope you use Libraries Week to grow and develop your press profile over the long-term.
What about my organisation’s communications team?
Some of the ideas in this toolkit will no doubt be things that you already do, or that somebody else in the organisation looks after. We hope that you will still find ideas and suggestions that are useful to you.
If you have a press team or communications department who usually manage the library’s press activity or PR, please work with them and hopefully this toolkit will help you to understand how to get positive press coverage.
What kind of stories will interest my target media?
Your local, community or special interest media are a key channel for getting news out and are keen to cover local, topical and colourful news – especially when it’s about people and places in the community, special events, or involving important figures.
Generally, local press love to cover positive stories featuring local children, families, places, big names, community events and anything interesting, fun or unusual that is taking place.
If you work in a library service that isn’t open to the public then there are many trade press outlets, special interest sites, pages and online groups that will be interested in what you do and the same principles apply.
Identifying and reaching your target media
Search online, print and broadcast media outlets to find out who the relevant journalists or influencers are and what interests or areas of specialism they have – many local news teams have named journalists covering specific regions of a county, local current affairs or particular topics.
Their names and contact details are generally published meaning that you can tell them about your upcoming plans, news or events. Contact numbers can usually be found within the papers or online (visit media.info or BT.com if individual titles don’t have their own websites).
With local press, there are often generic email addresses provided for their news or picture desks that you could send a press release or a great photo to as well as sending directly to named staff where possible.
When and how to contact the press
You have two main opportunities to reach out and tell the media and your community about your events: before and after your event. Press releases supply the media with all the information they need to run a story about what you’re doing without having to gather the information themselves.
If you have your plans with details of who will be present, what will be taking place, key background information and ideally photos of the key people or activity, it’s a good idea to issue a press release a couple of weeks prior to the event.
Another thing you can do around a week before your event is to invite your target journalists to come and see for themselves by sharing the time and venue through a diary note or photo call .
It’s very common to send a press release immediately after an event, because you should have the full story with interesting details, who attended, facts, quotes and hopefully interesting pictures or video to be sent alongside your text. This should be drafted and sent ASAP after the event, i.e. on the same day or the next day.
Whether you release details to your target media before or after really depends on what you’ve got planned and how much time and effort you can invest – if you have a strong event with lots of interest points, it’s worth covering all angles. If you don’t have enough information beforehand, it’s better to send out a good release with all the key points immediately after.
You can also follow up by phone with your target media. The idea is to make sure they have received and seen your press release and to pitch your story to the journalist or influencer. Here you’re highlighting the key points about your story and why your target media should be interested.
We have tips for writing a press release and two template press releases as downloads the end of this kit. They show the expected structure and kind of information that can be included.
Photo calls and diary notes
If you are planning a visually exciting event, i.e. a busy community gathering, a party, a special celebration, themed event or having a high profile person to visit, it is worth sending out a photo call to invite your target media’s journalists or a photographer to come and get their own professional shots of the event in action.
A photo call can be issued alongside a press release or sent as a stand-alone diary notice to picture desks or individuals if you have the right person’s contact details.
A diary note can be issued to local broadcast station planning teams when you have available spokespeople who are prepared to be interviewed about the event or activity taking place – either in a studio or recorded ‘down the line’ (on the phone). In some instances, broadcast journalists may wish to attend to capture audio, interviews and vox pops with those attending.
The photo call /diary note alert should include concise information about the specific activities taking place (based on a summary of the information from your press release) and highlight details of key people attending your event, e.g. local figures, relevant groups etc.
A template photo call/diary note is provided as a download at the end of this kit.
Wherever possible, press releases and media approaches are best accompanied by eye-catching photography that really helps bring the story to life for the readers of your target media outlets. Your story is much more likely to be picked up if it’s accompanied by interesting, decent quality pictures that will display clearly on their news websites or in print.
To be high enough quality for print use, pictures would need be shot on a good camera or taken by a professional. However for web use (e.g. online news), high resolution photos taken via mobile phone may be fine, as long as they are clear, well lit and not blurry.
If you have alerted the press about the event via a diary notice or photocall, hopefully they will attend and capture their own shots – but always try to get your own too.
Good shots are worth getting but if you don’t have the equipment or skills, invite someone in from your community who can take photos for you and ask them to send you the top two or three best shots straight after so that you can include with your press release. Photos are an investment in your service because you can always use good visual material in flyers, on social media and across your marketing and storytelling.
As you’ll know, with filming or photography involving children, permission has to be obtained from a parent or guardian before it can be used. It’s also good to inform members of the public so that they can give their consent or let you know if they would prefer not to be featured. Find a template photography release form as a download at the end of this kit.
When sending information and press releases to press, let them know what photography is available either via a note in the notes at the end of the release, or append them to your email as low-resolution attachments (if they are too high-resolution they might bounce back or clog up a journalist’s inbox—they will ask for larger versions if they want to use them).
When sending pictures, include a caption which provides details of your event or activity and the location and names the people in the picture. e.g.
“Local television presenter [Jane Doe] with children from [our local primary school] taking part in the Libraries Week Minecraft challenge at [XX] Library.”
Inviting a key figure to your Libraries Week event
Many library events are boosted by the participation of popular local figures or relevant high profile people taking part in main events as guests of honour, giving presentations and so on.
You can always aim high – if your MP is the person you most want to get to the library, you don’t have to assume that they will be too busy to come along. MPs, AM’s and MSPs generally spend Fridays in their constituency, so most will naturally be at home at the end of the week. Even cabinet members and prime ministers have been known to take part in events in their local community.
There can be political sensitivities about libraries, but remember it’s easier to engage and interest your MP, Mayor or councillor if the approach is positive and upbeat and if they are going to be part of a community celebration or showcase. They are busy people though, so if you are inviting them, make sure they have a specific role to play, e.g. making a brief announcement, formally opening an event and so on – then they are more likely to consider coming.
In general, most high profile people have websites or online biographies with details of how to contact them (or you might just catch them if you send them a message via twitter).
Get in touch with your chosen VIP as early as possible – their diaries will fill up quickly, even for weekends. Call their office first to ask for the appropriate contact information. Send your letter to their office via email, if you have not received a reply after a few days, give them a call.
If you succeed and they do attend, ask them on the day for a comment about your service which they are happy for you to use in your press release.
Find a template invitation letter for inviting a political figure as a download at the end of this kit.
Seven tips for a good press release
- Come up with a catchy and concise headline for your release. This should be written in bold and in a larger font than the main body of the release. Sub-headings can also be used to highlight key aspects of your story, for example if a VIP guest is attending your event. These should again be in bold, but in a slightly smaller font than the headline.
- The first paragraph should sum up your release in a couple of short sentences maximum, with the remainder of the release body elaborating on it. A good rule is to use the ‘5 Ws’: who, what, when, where, why. This allows journalists to quickly see what your story is about at a glance—the more interesting you can make the first paragraph the more likely they are to read to the end of the release.
- The length of your press release should be a single page. Keep it clear, avoid using very long sentences and paragraphs, repetition, fancy language and jargon. Make sure the release is grammatically correct and doesn’t contain any spelling mistakes.
- Include a quote from your spokesperson and/or, if possible, a comment from any VIP guests scheduled to attend. This can be used to add colour to the story and allows busy journalists to complete an article without the need for a follow-up interview.
- Insert a ‘call to action’ in the main body of the release—the information that you want the public to take away from any article they read, e.g. a webpage they can visit to find out more about your event, or a phone number to call to let you know they would like to attend.
- The main body of your press release should be followed by a ‘notes to editors’ section, to include contact details and information about your library, and that of Libraries Week. If you have photography available, state that photos can be supplied on request. Contact details should include a name, telephone number (mobile optional) and email address for any enquiries relating to your story.
- Use your headline for the subject field of your email. Where possible, do not post or fax across press information as this will likely go unopened and / or straight into the recycling bin!
You can find example press releases as downloads at the end of this kit.
Some tips for selling your story to your key media
- Contact your local newspaper or radio station and ask to speak to someone on the news desk of the relevant publication or programme. Contact numbers can usually be found within the papers or online
- Be sure to ask for the name of the person you speak to or, if they refer you to someone else on the publication, that person’s direct dial telephone number and email address. This will help you to get your story to the right person and means you can follow up directly with them after sending information out.
- Give a concise pitch (30 seconds maximum) to explain who you are, where you are calling from and what the headline of the story is, e.g. “October 9-14 is Libraries Week and to help families to discover how the library can help them with their health, we’ll be running a community health clinic…” etc
- Send journalists the press release pasted into the body of an email, and include one or two example pictures (in low resolution) of your event if applicable
- Be mindful of journalists’ deadlines before making your call. People on evening papers will most likely be on deadline around late morning and won’t have time to talk or will disregard what’s being offered; likewise, reporters on daily morning titles will have little time to speak towards the end of the working day.
- Even if members of your target press or political community have not responded to your notices or event invitations, don’t be afraid to share an invite or link to your news or events with them via Twitter. All journalists and outlets now publish their twitter handles and by including their handle on your tweet, they may pick up your story.
Download this kit in full as a PDF, including templates for press releases and letters.
Download the individual templates referred to in the text.
Press release template: Libraries Week preview
A template press release you can use in advance of Libraries Week to inform the local media about the activities you are planning.
Press release template: politician visit
A press release template you can adapt after Libraries Week, using a visit from a local MP or politician as a way of telling the local media about the events…
Photography release template
If your photos or videos from your library events have people in them - especially children - you can use this form to get their permission to use the material…
Template letter to local political leaders
A template letter that you can personalise and use to brief local decision-makers on the good work of libraries in your area.
Diary notice template
A template Diary Notice / Photo Alert that you can use to inform the media of your upcoming events.
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