The Press Release Handbook for ACB Affiliates and Chapters

2nd Edition, Revised 2012

Prepared by Members of the
Public Relations Committee:
Dr. Ronald E. Milliman, Chairman 
Sharon Lovering
Day Al-Mohamed
Gaylen Floy
 
Edited By
Dr. Ronald E. Milliman
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
 
ACB acknowledges and deeply appreciates the moral and financial support of the Florida Council of the Blind for its generous assistance in covering the printing and supply cost of making the 1st edition of this Press Release Handbook available.  Copies are available in large print, braille, on IBM-compatible CD, as well as via download from the ACB web page.  To request a copy, contact the ACB national office at the address or telephone number below.
 
American Council of the Blind
2200 Wilson Blvd.
Suite 650
Arlington, VA 22201
(202) 467-5081
(800) 424-8666
http://www.acb.org
 
Copyright 2012
American Council of the Blind
All rights reserved

Table of Contents

Chapter One: The Magic of the Press Release
Chapter Two: Writing Press Releases the Media Will Love!
Chapter Three: Getting Your Press Release Distribute
Chapter Four: Recognizing Press Release Opportunities
References


Chapter One
The Magic of the Press Release

What Is A Press Release?
 
To begin with, we must note that we consider the terms “press release,” “news release,” and “media release” as interchangeable.  A little research revealed that the most commonly used term is “press release.”  Therefore, that is the term used throughout this handbook.

A press release is an announcement that informs the media about upcoming special events, personnel matters (e.g., hiring, promotions, retirements, etc.), medical breakthroughs, major technological advancements, an important organizational function, a variety of causes (like the American Heart Association), or is meant to build someone's or some organization's image.  They can be mailed, faxed, e-mailed or hand-delivered to the various media outlets in your area and beyond.

The purpose of a press release is to get information about your event or cause into the newspaper, on the radio and TV, and into the public's eye.  Much like a public service announcement, a press release gives the newspaper/radio/TV station information for it to process and distribute to the public.  Reporters often rewrite and condense information from press releases to fit into the newspaper's or radio station's calendar or upcoming events section.  Often the media will call the contact person(s) included in the press release for additional information.  However, sometimes it's just not appropriate to use a press release.
 
When A Press Release Isn't Appropriate
 
You should never use a press release in place of an advertisement for your product, service, or organization.  A press release must be newsworthy in the eyes of the media source to which you are sending it.  The newspaper editor or news director of the television station should not read your press release and simply perceive it as a glorified ad dressed up to look like a press release.  Here is an example of an announcement that would be considered an advertisement by the media:
 
Linda, Kathy, and Sue Anderson have three things in common: they are all sisters; they are all blind, and they are all accomplished custom jewelry makers.  They custom
design jewelry such as rings, necklaces, and earrings from
precious stones and other materials.  Their elegant artistic
designs can be seen and purchased from their web site:
www.blindjewelrydesigns.com.
 
Your press release must be considered newsworthy and of interest to a large number of the readers, listeners, or viewers.  Again, look at these three basic types of press releases: 1) announcements of coming events or major personnel matters (e.g., a concert being performed by your organization that is open to the public, or personnel matters like hiring several new people, key promotions, retirement of an important person in your organization, etc.); 2) information regarding a cause (e.g., a major fundraiser to raise money for surgery to restore a blind child's eyesight), or 3) information that is meant to build or affect someone's or some organization's image (e.g., the Ajax Association of the Blind is holding a press conference Monday to respond to the charges of discrimination against its deaf-blind members).  If your press release does not fall into one or more of these types, and if it is not genuinely newsworthy, then it probably is not a legitimate press release, and you should seek other avenues for coverage and distribution.

Here are some more specific examples (listed by type):
 
Type One: Announcements of Coming Events Or Major Personnel Matters

The Arizona Council of the Blind will hold its annual convention May 2-3 at the Phoenix International Airport
Hilton Hotel.
 
Dining in the Dark declared a huge success by Barbara Ross of the Florida Council of the Blind
 
Dr. John Jones will retire from the Laser Eye Center at the end of May.  Taking his place will be his son, Dr. John Jones Jr.

 
Type Two: Information Regarding a Cause

The Metro Lions are holding a “Walk-a-Thon Pledge Event” Sunday afternoon to help raise money for Janet Williams, a 10-year-old girl who needs costly surgery to restore her eyesight.
 
Volunteers are needed to assist with the 4th Annual Blind Fishing Tournament to be held at Coldwater Lake on June 15 beginning at 7 a.m.  All proceeds will be used to support the SeeMore Institute.
 
Several members of George Washington University's Delta Gamma sorority assisted members of the American Council of the Blind during ACB's annual legislative seminar Feb. 13, 2008.

Type Three: Information Meant to Build or Affect Someone's or Some Organization's Image

The Christian United Blind of Mountain Top is changing its name to the United Blind of Mountain Top, dropping the word “Christian,” to indicate the organization is open to people of all faiths and beliefs. 
 
With the vast expansion of the Small Business Incubator Center, Robert Bell, owner of Bell's Coffee Shop,
announced he is changing the name to the Dinner Bell and he will extend his restaurant's hours and selections to include Happy Hour from 4:00 to 5:00 and dinner from 5:00 to 8:30, beginning June 10th.  Bell says, “I think this change will better fit the new image we want to project to our patrons.”
 
Mayor Jim Smith has proclaimed January 4 as Braille Literacy Day.  Local blindness organizations will have braille books and other items on display from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Smithtown mall.  You can even get your name in braille!

In summary, is your item an announcement of a coming event, or a personnel matter?  Does it try to further ACB's or your chapter's image or cause?  If so, then a press release would be appropriate.

However, if it is an expression of an opinion concerning an item in the newspaper, then a letter to the editor of that paper would be the correct thing to do.  If it were expressing dismay at the content of a particular television show (for example, “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition”), then a letter to the station's headquarters (in this case, ABC in New York) would be most appropriate.

But what if it concerns an ad you saw on TV or heard on the radio?  This is where things become a little trickier.  If it were you, personally, expressing an opinion on the ad, then no, a press release would not be appropriate.  However, if it were your state or special-interest affiliate expressing its concerns and trying to educate the public as to the inappropriateness of the ad because it insinuated something negative about blind people, then yes, a press release would be appropriate.

If you ever have a question about the appropriateness of a press release versus a letter to the editor, or whether a press release is warranted at all, you can always contact the ACB national office or the chair of the PR committee for his/her recommendations and assistance.  
 
The Impact and Power of the Press Release for ACB

Remember, we are a grass-roots organization, and our power comes from our members, our affiliates, and our chapters.  As of this writing, there are over 70 active ACB affiliates (state affiliates and special-interest affiliates combined), and within those affiliates, there are over 300 chapters.  Let's look quickly at the math.  If 70 affiliates averaged just two press releases a year, this would be 140 press releases going out mostly to local media each year.  This is nearly 12 press releases each month, and that doesn't even take into account the press releases going out to the national and local media by our national office.  Think of the impact that ACB would have if those kinds of numbers were a reality!  ACB would be recognized across the entire country as the largest, most powerful voice representing this nation's blind.  Whenever a blindness-related issue came up, and the media needed more information, ACB and its affiliates and chapters would be the first source the media would think of as the most knowledgeable source of information!  Certainly your organization has two or more events each year worthy of a press release.  A fairly exhaustive list of press release opportunities appears in chapter four.


Chapter Two
Writing Press Releases the Media Will Love!

 
Characteristics of a Good Press Release
 
A good press release should focus on a single message.  A poor press release will often attempt to cover two, three, or more topics.  While, in general, short press releases are preferred over long ones, the key is that the press release needs to be long enough to convey the message.  Thus, some press releases can be written sufficiently in two or three paragraphs, while others may take two or three pages.  There is no set length for a good press release. 

No matter how short or long your press release is, it must immediately capture the reader's attention and entice him/her to continue reading for more information.  The headline and the first paragraph must grab the reader's attention and spark his/her interest.  It is much like the often referred to AIDA formula in advertising: attention, interest, desire, and action.  Your press release must gain the reader's attention, arouse his/her interest enough to stimulate his/her desire for more information, and then cause the reader, e.g., newspaper editor, to act by calling for even more information, an interview, and/or publish the essence of the press release in the paper or give it some air time.     

Your press release should use easily understood words and simple, short sentences and paragraphs.  A common mistake is to use too many adjectives or descriptive words. 

It is crucial that your press release have significant news value.  The message focused on by your press release must be of interest to the reader's audience.  The newspaper editor, for instance, is only interested in publishing the information conveyed by your press release if it will be interesting to his/her readership, or at least to some fairly large portion of them. 

Your press release should always follow what is referred to as the inverted pyramid format.  This means that you should place the most important, attention-grabbing information first.  You must have a strong lead, i.e., headline and first paragraph.  You must include who, what, when, where, why, and how.  Subsequent paragraphs should expand upon the main point of the press release.  Whenever possible and appropriate, you should use quotes from key people of influence (such as the president of your affiliate, the president or executive director of ACB, etc.) or people affected by the main issue of the press release.  It is good to incorporate opinions and ideas, even if controversial, and explain rationale for actions or reactions.  You should avoid trite or overused expressions, such as “the blind leading the blind,” or “jumped out of the fire and into the frying pan,” etc.

You should always strive to use clear, easy-to-read and concise language.  Ideally, your sentences should not exceed 15 words, averaging six letters each, and your paragraphs should not exceed four lines, totaling 30 words per paragraph.  Again, this is an ideal.  The truth is that almost no press releases follow this rule, but it is something to shoot for when writing your press release! 

Always, always, always check and double-check for correct sentence structure, spelling, and clear meaning of what you are trying to say.  It is a good idea to write your press release, set it aside for a day or two, if you can afford the time, and then go back and read it again.  You will be amazed at what you spot that needs editing and changing that you completely missed when you first worked on the release.  When you think it is perfect, give it to someone else who you know to be a good, competent writer and who has knowledge of what goes into a strong press release.  Again, you will be surprised at what a second person will spot that you missed. 

Press releases can be distributed either in hard copy format or by e-mail or both.  All hard copies should be typewritten (printed out on a good quality printer), and double-spaced.  Emailed copies, however, can be single-spaced, rather than double-spaced.  You should, of course, print your hard copies out only on one side of the sheet, not front and back.  If more than one page, the word “continued” should be placed at the bottom right of each sheet, unless it is the last page.  The end of the press release should be indicated with three number signs (###), centered at the bottom of the last page. 

Always remember to include a name and telephone number for a contact person who is very familiar with the central message of your press release in case the reader wants more information.  Whenever possible, it is best to supply a toll-free telephone number for the contact person.  You should indicate a release time.  Often, the words "For Immediate Release" appear at the top of the press release.  However, if the release date is not immediate, you need to supply the reader with the desired release date.  
 
The Effective Press Release Formula
 
All press releases follow the same general format, but there is no one precise formula or format that every single press release follows.  Here is the general formula, followed by some examples that demonstrate slightly varying formats.

At the top, aligned left in bold print, should be the words "For Immediate Release."  The exception to this is that if the information should be released at a later date, say, in a week or a few days, and you are just giving the editor and/or news director an exclusive or "scoop" on the information being divulged by your press release.  Place a blank line underneath the words “For Immediate Release,” then include the contact information on the next lines. This information is extremely vital.  You need to include the name of the contact person, the name of your affiliate, chapter, or the ACB, your phone and fax numbers, including preferably a toll-free number (or ACB's numbers), an e-mail address, and your web site's URL.

Next, you should follow what is referred to as the inverted pyramid format when writing your press release.  The inverted pyramid starts with and builds from a broad base.  Place the most essential information at the top, i.e., the short, attention-grabbing headline followed by the interest -arousing first paragraph.  

The initial paragraph normally begins with the city, state, and date (e.g. LOUISVILLE, Ky., July 12, 2008 --).  You should regard the first paragraph as the base of the inverted pyramid that tells the who, what, when, where, why, and how of your press release.  You need to include the attention-grabbing hook or most salient points, followed by the related facts.

Your subsequent paragraphs will include additional information such as quotes from key people, the impact the issue will have on your members and/or the editor's/news director's target audience, especially any benefits to be gained from the issue.  For instance, a press release about the importance of making web sites accessible should include how such accessibility can be helpful to everyone who uses them, not just blind people.   

The final paragraph(s) of your press release should be a summary of the salient points you made in your earlier sections, stating it a little differently.

Wrap up your press release with a paragraph describing your affiliate or chapter, followed, again, with the full contact information, such as: “For more information, call, write or visit: telephone number, fax, e-mail or web site.”  Then, you should go down three or four lines and place three number signs (###) indicating the end of your press release.  If your press release is longer than a single page, you should place "-- continued --" at the bottom right of each page, except for the last page.  Then indicate the end of your press release with ###.  Here is the general formula, but remember, this may vary slightly from press release to press release, depending upon the situation, the nature of the information, etc.
 
For Immediate Release
 
Contact person
Name of affiliate or chapter
Address
Telephone numbers
E-mail address
Web site URL
 
Headline
 
CITY, State, Date -- Summary of what the release is about, two to three lines long.
 
Photo Here (optional)
 
Lead paragraph -- Answer who, what, where, when, how and why
 
Subsequent paragraphs --The main body where your message should fully develop with most important facts first.
 
Affiliate or chapter summary -- Information about your organization, e.g. services and information to help establish your knowledge and credibility.
 
Contact:
Contact person
Affiliate or chapter name
Telephone numbers
E-mail address
Web site URL
 
###
 
Sample press releases that got results
 
Below is an example of a press release that was used by a local ACB chapter that resulted in coverage by most all of the local media, TV, newspaper, several radio stations, and even several local "calendar of events" listings.
 
For Immediate Release
 
For more information, contact:
Dr. Ronald E. Milliman
South Central Kentucky Council of the Blind
Telephone: (270) 782-9325, 1-800-996-7356 
E-mail: ron.milliman@wku.edu
Web site: http://www.sckcb.org
 
Free Showing of the Audio-Described Movie ‘Ray’
 
BOWLING GREEN, Ky., Oct. 2, 2007 -- There will be a free showing of the movie "Ray" at Western Kentucky University on October 8, beginning at 7 p.m. in the Mass Media & Technology Hall Auditorium, Room 166.
 
Ronald E. Milliman, Professor of Marketing, and the South Central Kentucky Council of the Blind (SCKCB) are inviting all WKU students, faculty, staff, and the general public to attend a FREE showing of the audio-described movie “Ray” in celebration of Disability Month and to inform people about blindness.  Audio description is an additional narration that describes all significant visual information, such as body language, facial expressions, scenery, action, costumes -- anything that is important to conveying the plot of the story, event or image.   
 
The celebrated film about the blind rhythm-and-blues singer Ray Charles traces his career from his early days as a poor musician in the segregated South to his rise to fame as one of the most influential musicians of his time.  Jamie Foxx plays the title role in this biopic about Ray Charles (1930-2004).  Ray Charles' singing voice is heard on the musical numbers, which include: "What'd I Say," "Unchain My Heart," "Hit the Road, Jack," and "Georgia on My Mind." The movie concentrates on Charles' life from the late 1940s to the mid-1960s, showing his experiences with discrimination, his marriage to Della Bea, his womanizing, his drug usage, recovery from his drug addiction, and his experiences in the music business.  Nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and winner for Best Actor (Jamie Foxx), “Ray” has been a hit both with critics and at the box office.
 
Dr. Ronald E. Milliman is a blind professor of marketing at WKU and an officer in the South Central Kentucky Council of the Blind, a locally based organization of the blind that promotes public education about blindness and is a major resource for blind and low-vision people for obtaining assistance in coping with their blindness or low-vision challenges, parents of blind or low-vision children, and people of all ages who are losing or anticipate losing their eyesight.  The SCKCB is affiliated with the American Council of the Blind, based in Washington, D.C.
 
For more information about blindness, the South Central Kentucky Council of the Blind or the American Council of the Blind, contact Dr. Ronald E. Milliman, (270) 782-9325, 1-800-996-7356, e-mail ron.milliman@wku.edu, or visit http://www.sckcb.org.
 
###
 

Here is another example.  This press release follows a slightly different format, but basically, the same general formula:
 
For Immediate Release
January 29, 2008
 
For more information, contact:
American Council of the Blind (ACB)
1-800-424-8666
 
Blind Voters from Nearly Every State to Meet with Their Legislators in Washington
 
Over 125 people from all over the United States are expected to attend the American Council of the Blind's (ACB) Legislative Seminar in Washington, D.C., February 10-13. The purpose is to establish a relationship with our lawmakers and to make them more aware of important issues faced by blind and low-vision people.  For instance, the United States is the only developed country in the world that does not have paper currency that can be used independently by blind people by touch.  Blind people are concerned about the increasing number of electric cars that are so quiet they cannot be heard by a blind person.  "These, among others, are important issues we need to take up with our legislators in Washington," says Dr. Ron Milliman, chair of the ACB public relations committee.  ACB members will meet with representatives on the Hill Tuesday, Feb. 12.
 
The Legislative Seminar will be preceded by an ACB affiliate presidents' meeting February 9-10.
 
The American Council of the Blind is the largest consumer-based organization of blind and visually impaired Americans advocating for the rights of blind Americans. Comprised of more than 70 affiliates across the United States, the organization is dedicated to making it possible for blind and visually impaired Americans to participate fully in every aspect of American society.
 
For more information about the American Council of the Blind, and the issues it supports, visit www.acb.org or contact Melanie Brunson, Executive Director, American Council of the Blind, 1155 15th St. NW, Suite 1004, Washington, DC 20005 or phone (202) 467-5081 or toll-free, 1-800-424-8666.
 
###
 
 
For Immediate Release
January 17, 2008
 
For more information, contact:
American Council of the Blind
1-800-424-8666
 
ACB Finds Success with Structured Negotiations
 
WASHINGTON -- In 2007, the American Council of the Blind (ACB) collaborated with other disability organizations in signing three important new agreements using structured negotiations instead of litigation.  Structured negotiation is a collaborative process of resolving disputes that encourages cooperation between and among the affected parties, without requiring formal, time-consuming, and costly litigation.  It focuses upon peaceful settlements, rather than confrontation.
 

  1. A landmark agreement with San Francisco required the city to spend at least $1.6 million over two and a half years equipping all crosswalks of at least 80 intersections with accessible pedestrian signals (APS).
  2. Radio Shack signed an agreement addressing the accessibility of the company’s web site and retail stores.  The agreement requires installation of at least one tactile point-of-sale (POS) device at every Radio Shack store in the United States. The devices have already been installed in over 5,000 stores.
  3. 7-Eleven signed an agreement requiring installation of POS devices with tactile keypads in over 6,000 7-Eleven stores across the country.  
  4. Banks continue to install Talking ATMs pursuant to agreements reached as a result of structured negotiations. The banking industry is also at the forefront of on-line accessibility in the private sector.  ACB continues to monitor settlement agreements providing for alternate formats, like braille, since accessible financial information is a guaranteed right under federal and state law.  Such achievements using structured negotiations have the potential of impacting millions of blind people.  According to the American Foundation for the Blind, roughly 75,000 Americans become blind each year, and there are an estimated total of 1.3 million blind people currently in the United States.

The American Council of the Blind is the largest consumer-based organization of blind and visually impaired Americans advocating for the rights of blind Americans. Comprised of more than 70 affiliates across the entire United States, the organization is dedicated to making it possible for blind and visually impaired Americans to participate fully in every aspect of American society.

For more information about the American Council of the Blind, and the issues it supports, visit www.acb.org or contact Melanie Brunson, Executive Director, American Council of the Blind, 1155 15th St. NW, Suite 1004, Washington, DC 20005 or phone (202) 467-5081 or toll-free, 1-800-424-8666.
###

Here is a press release that got considerable coverage by the media.
 
For Immediate Release
 
Bay State Council of the Blind President Quoted On ‘Meet the Press’
 
WASHINGTON, Dec. 17, 2007 -- Bob Hachey, president of the Bay State Council of the Blind (BSCB), an affiliate of the American Council of the Blind located in Waltham, Mass., was quoted by Tim Russert on “Meet the Press” this past weekend.  In an interview with Mitt Romney, Republican candidate for president, Hachey was quoted to say that Romney's name was "Fee-Fee."
 
Later, when asked to elaborate upon what he meant, Hachey stated that when Romney was governor of Massachusetts, he increased fees levied on blind citizens and other disadvantaged constituents, rather than increasing taxes on the more affluent citizens of the state.  Hachey pointed out the regressive nature of Romney's approach to balancing the budget.  He stated, at the time, “that perhaps we could send Governor Romney a French poodle in recognition of the new fees and fee increases in this budget.”  Hachey jokingly suggested that the poodle could be appropriately named “Fee-Fee.”  He further clarified by expressing concerns about service cuts and proposed increases in fees.  He also expressed concerns about a governor who seemed more concerned with tax cuts for the wealthy than providing services to persons with disabilities. 
 
Mitch Pomerantz, president of the American Council of the Blind, was quick to point out that ACB does not endorse, support or oppose any particular political candidate, and that they all have their individual strengths and weaknesses. 
 
Bay State Council of the Blind is an affiliate of the American Council of the Blind (ACB).  The American Council of the Blind, founded in 1961, is the nation’s leading membership organization of blind and visually impaired people.  ACB has 51 state and regional affiliates and 20 national special-interest and professional affiliates.  ACB and its many affiliates strive to improve the well-being of all blind and visually impaired people by: serving as a representative national organization of blind people; elevating the social, economic and cultural levels of blind people; improving educational and rehabilitation facilities and opportunities; cooperating with public and private institutions and organizations concerned with blind services; encouraging and assisting all blind persons to develop their abilities and conducting a public education program to promote greater understanding of blindness and the capabilities of blind people.
 
American Council of the Blind
1155 15th St. NW
Suite 1004
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 467-5081
(800) 424-8666
Fax: (202) 467-5085
http://www.acb.org
Melanie Brunson, Executive Director: mbrunson@acb.org
 
###
 
Using Boilerplate Copy
 
You can use some of the same "boilerplate" copy in nearly all of your press releases.  For instance, all of the ACB press releases we write and send out at the national level contain some of the same wording when describing ACB, as you can see from the examples shown previously.  Here is an example of boilerplate copy that we use:
 
The American Council of the Blind is the largest consumer-based organization of blind and visually impaired Americans advocating for the rights of blind Americans. Comprised of more than 70 affiliates across the United States, the organization is dedicated to making it possible for blind and visually impaired Americans to participate fully in every aspect of American society.
 
For more information about the American Council of the Blind, and the issues it supports, visit www.acb.org or contact Melanie Brunson, Executive Director, American Council of the Blind, 2200 Wilson Blvd., Suite 650, Arlington, VA 22201 or phone (202) 467-5081 or toll-free, 1-800-424-8666.
 
The same, or very similar, copy is used at the bottom of all of our press releases.  Here is another example of boilerplate copy that is used by the South Central Kentucky Council of the Blind, but it could be very easily edited and adapted to fit your affiliate’s or chapter’s needs and situation:
 
The South Central Kentucky Council of the Blind (SCKCB) is a locally based organization of the blind that promotes public education about blindness, and is a major resource for blind and low-vision people for obtaining assistance with coping with their blindness or low-vision challenges, parents of blind or low-vision children, and people of all ages who are losing or anticipate losing their eyesight.  The SCKCB is affiliated with the American Council of the Blind, based in Washington, D.C.
 
For more information about blindness or the South Central Kentucky Council of the Blind or the American Council of the Blind, contact:
Dr. Ronald E. Milliman
(270) 782-9325
1-800-996-7356
E-mail: ron.milliman@wku.edu
Web site: http://www.sckcb.org
 
Such boilerplate copy will save you time and make writing your press release much quicker and easier.
 
If you have questions concerning what is appropriate for a press release, or if you need assistance in writing a press release, you can contact our Washington office or the chair of the PR committee.


Chapter Three
Getting Your Press Release Distributed

Up until this point, we have focused on the need for and creation of a press or news release.  This chapter focuses on the distribution of a release and any other pertinent information to the media.  It’s estimated that 70 percent of news comes from sources outside of the traditional media sources. The majority comes to media channels in the form of press releases. These press releases are then picked up, reported on, and delivered to the public as news. 

Distribution of a press release can vary depending on the subject of your release.  Is the news national, regional or local?  What is the most appropriate channel of distribution: e-mail, mail, fax, or telephone?  Effective press release distribution does not require an in-depth knowledge of press release distribution channels, techniques or experience in handling the syndication process, but it does require organization, consistency, open and regular communication and the ability to plan in the long term.

Your Team

A press release may be written by a single individual or by a small group.  For effective ongoing distribution of news about your affiliate or chapter, having a team of individuals, led by a state-level organizer, can make a significant difference as opposed to a single PR person.  For instance, you could have a key person responsible for creating press releases in each of your chapters.  You could also have a key person responsible for writing and distributing press releases in your affiliate.  Together, they would form your affiliate’s press release team. 

One of the most critical elements in the effective distribution of a press release is networking and building relationships with various media outlets.  A team approach can significantly ease the burden; this is especially important when attempting to publicize wide-reaching events such as a state convention.
 
Building a Media Distribution List
 
One of the first steps for successful placement of press releases is building a targeted media list or database.  This is a critical tool, and if it is updated regularly, it can be invaluable to your affiliate for years to come. The best way to build your list or database is to carefully track media publications and shows (both radio and television), and to identify reporters and media outlets who would be interested in your story. 

Some points to remember in creating the initial list is to keep in mind the different available media outlets and also the specific format they tend to follow.  This list should be as broad as possible and contain as much information as would be pertinent for future press release opportunities.  That means that this is not just a list of names, e-mails and contact numbers, but also should include notations of their specific area of interest, e.g. technology, disability-related, or even just general community interest material.  We have provided a possible list of media outlets to help jog your thought process when considering potential sources to distribute your press release to at the end of this chapter.  It includes suggestions for a variety of media outlets to include on your media list or database.  In addition, having the information organized by the type of media, by region and/or interest area may be useful for more targeted distribution efforts.

Your database should include not only outlets such as print newspapers and magazines, or television channels and radio stations, but also the particular contacts within those outlets and journalists and reporters who have an interest in issues that parallel your organization’s interests.  You can call the media outlets to get the phone, e-mail and fax number of the journalists you would like to add to your list, or do a little online research to find the information.  We have also included a sample of information that might be included in your media list or database at the end of this chapter. 
 
The goal is that over time you will create a network of contacts and relationships for distribution of your press releases that are interested in what you have to say.  Keep in mind, outlets like “The Los Angeles Times” receive over 3,000 press releases a week.  So a personal relationship with the media, especially your key media contacts, can make the difference between a press release languishing or attracting attention and being printed or aired.  Even though some so-called experts advise against calling your key media contacts before sending out your press release, our experience has shown the opposite to be true.  Especially in smaller cities and towns, a personal phone call to the editor of the prime newspaper in your area or news director of the local TV and radio stations will usually produce much better results than if you just send them your press release without any prior communications on your part. 
 
For example, recently, when the federal court decision came down favoring ACB’s position against the U.S. Treasury concerning the need to make our paper currency accessible, our personal contacts with the networks, the news wire services, and contacts directly with newspapers, TV, and radio stations across the country achieved nearly a 90 percent coverage rate from the sources we contacted.  This resulted in numerous personal interviews by the media with our Washington staff; our president, Mitch Pomerantz; the chair of the public relations committee, and other ACB members.  Without those initial personal contacts, it is very doubtful that we would have achieved that much coverage.  What is even more amazing is that we received this level of results when we were competing with major news stories like the Kentucky and Oregon Democratic primaries, and the tragic news that Ted Kennedy was found to have a malignant brain tumor.  Personal contact definitely helps you get results.

Methods of Getting Your Press Release Distributed

Although there are now many ways that information can be distributed -- television, radio, print news, online -- there are still only a few ways to contact those media outlets.  Rather than discuss the methods of distribution, this portion of the chapter will address the various alternative methods of dissemination of your press release to the media outlet. 
 
Online
According to PRWeb, “more than 27 million people use Yahoo News and Google News” for one source of their daily information.  Approximately 92 percent of journalists do their article research on the web.  Making sure that your press release is available on your web site gives you an additional opportunity for publicity.  It makes it easier for media members to find the information you want them to see if you have a specific link for press releases on your web site.  The page should include links to current and previous press releases.  

E-mail

In today’s electronic world, many media outlets prefer that you contact them via e-mail for press releases.  There are numerous web sites that promise to provide e-mail addresses and faxes for editors and publishers and many more that provide services to forward your press release to a variety of media outlets.  As a cautionary note, although some of these providers may be legitimate, many of these services are sending unsolicited e-mail, which might be perceived as spam by the recipient.  Be careful that you send a press release only to those with whom you have an existing relationship or whom you have confirmed is the appropriate contact. While sending a press release via e-mail seems simple, here are a few very important rules you should remember:
 

  1. Make sure your e-mail is being sent to the correct person.  Get the e-mail addresses for your key contacts and contributing editors from the media outlet’s web site or by calling on the phone and asking to whom your press releases should be directed.  If the number of contacts is overwhelming, find the e-mail of an editorial assistant; it's the assistant’s job to track the journalists’ beats.
  2. Do not send any e-mail that is addressed to multiple individuals.  Many editors and news directors will automatically delete such a posting.  Every journalist is equally important, and it is how you handle communications and your relationship with them that will determine your success. 
  3. All e-mails should be sent as plain text. 
  4. Include a signature with full contact information. 
  5. Do not send any attachments, unless the recipient requests your press release in a particular format and expects it as an attachment.  In today’s world of Internet viruses, an attachment is unlikely to be opened, and your entire message will probably be deleted unread.  If you need the recipient to access an exceptionally large file, you should point him/her to a URL or link on your web site where it can be downloaded. 
  6. You should always use meaningful subject headers.  Avoid generic titles like “Press Release” or “From ACB Media Office,” and avoid any titles that utilize symbols such as the exclamation point, dollar sign or “at” symbol, that can be mistaken as spam.
  7. Do not use generic or free e-mail accounts such as Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, or AOL’s Webmail.  It looks very unprofessional.

Telephone

For initial contact with any media outlet, the telephone
is still the reliable standby.  It is the most effective means to inquire as to who is the best person to address press release information and to initiate what can be a long and productive relationship between your organization and local important media contacts.  However, there are a few rules to keep in mind when contacting media outlets via telephone:
 

  1. If you are forced to leave a voice mail message, begin your message with your name and phone number.  You should not require the reporter to listen to your entire message to find your contact information. 
  2. When returning a phone call, identify yourself as completely as possible, e.g., “This is Brenda Dillon from the American Council of the Blind.  You left me a message regarding our state convention, and were interested in including our community blood drive in an upcoming story?” 
  3. Voice mail is a very poor format for providing press release information and should not be used for that purpose.  Voice mail should only be used as a support method, not as your main means for communicating important press release information.  If your message is very long, it is best to send it via e-mail as opposed to a long and potentially confusing voicemail.

Fax

Faxing is probably the simplest method for transmitting
your press release.  Many, if not most, newspapers, television and radio stations have a fax number for press releases and your written release can usually be sent without difficulty.  As stated earlier, it is very important to include in your press release how your announcement will impact the medium’s target audience, i.e. readers, listeners, or viewers.
 

News Wire Services

News wires distribute press releases directly to editors and other media outlets; many also publish the releases on their web sites.  It is important to note that many of the wire services can be expensive, running approximately $300 to $600 per release.  They have the advantage of immediately reaching a broad range of media outlets across the country.  However, for most local and regional events, this can be an unnecessary expense and can prevent you from taking advantage of local relationships.
 
However, if you are interested in using some of the free
news service providers, you need to keep in mind the cautions against the risks associated with using such free services that were mentioned earlier.  If that is still your choice, you should only make use of only one or two such sites.  If you use more than three, you are wasting your time and efforts.  You need to choose specific services based on which ones will get your press release included on Internet news engines such as Google and Yahoo News.
 
 
Timing and Tracking
 
Press releases are the key to effectively marketing your chapter or affiliate.  Issuing a new press release every three to four weeks keeps you in front of the media, and it has a cumulative effect of increasing the effectiveness of your press releases.  The release of material on a regular basis not only familiarizes media outlets and reporters with your organization, it projects the impression of an active and vibrant organization that is newsworthy.
 
Finally, if your press release is published, be sure to maintain copies for your records or get permission to maintain a copy on your web site.  By tracking the effectiveness of your press release program, it allows you to focus your distribution efforts in the future by emphasizing those media outlets that get you results, i.e., maximum exposure for your affiliate or chapter.
 

Conclusion

 
Press releases are an excellent tool for gaining exposure for your organization and helping you promote public awareness of important blindness-related issues.  This is a very powerful, cost-effective means of promotion and publicity for your affiliate and chapter.  It has a profound influence on the public, and in turn, through the community's power, the government is also impacted.  A well-organized rally or event that is attended by 100 or more of your affiliate's members is great, but if you can turn it into a media event and gain widespread media coverage, starting with your press release, you will reach many, many times that number with your message.  Now, let’s look at some of the possible media outlets for your press release.
 

Possible Media Outlets

 

Below is an extensive list of possible media outlets intended to assist you when exploring the options in your geographic area.  The number and type of media outlets available to you depends upon whether you are targeting the entire nation, your entire state, or a specific region of the country or your state, or a city or small town.  It is one challenge to target, for instance, the entire state of Texas, but it is a very different challenge to target just Dallas or Houston; and a different situation if you are trying to reach the people in a small place like Princeton, Ky.  Regardless, this list of potential outlets should help you in your goal to reach all possible mediums and outlets.
 
1.    Newspapers

Local community and statewide newspapers
School and university bulletins and newspapers
Church bulletins and newspapers
Other non-competing organizations’ bulletins and newspapers

2.    Television

Note: In addition to contacting the local television stations regarding news coverage of your event, making direct contact with some of the local on-air programs to encourage their coverage offers a different perspective and an be a wonderful ongoing relationship.
 
Television stations
Local public access cable channel (and programs)

3.     Radio

Radio stations
College and university radio stations
Public access radio stations (and programs)
 
4.     Magazines:

Many states and even cities have magazines targeting issues and interests pertaining to
its population.  There are all kinds of travel-related publications, some sports-related, and some focus on
eating establishments.  For instance, in Kentucky, there is a magazine called Kentucky Afield, which is devoted entirely to outdoor activities, especially hunting and fishing in the state of Kentucky.  If we were holding a fishing tournament for blind fishers, this would be an excellent outlet.
 
5.     Parks & Recreation Department:

Many Parks and Recreation Departments keep a listing of ongoing community events and also publicize those events.  Some departments also maintain their own community cable programming.
 
6.     Local Colleges and Universities:

Most local colleges and universities have a number of ways that information about your event or organization may be distributed and can be a unique and effective resource.  As a note, the increased bureaucracy and complexity inherent in a university system requires patience to find who the appropriate university contact(s) may be.
 
College events calendars
College-owned radio stations and television networks
Community/residential bulletin boards
Departments with an interest in your issue
Fraternities and sororities with an interest in your issue (e.g., Delta Gamma)
 
7.     Chamber of Commerce
 
 
Sample Information to Include in a Media Database
 
1)     Medium (e.g. newspaper, TV, radio, etc.)
 
2)     Source (e.g. Louisville Courier-Journal, WAVE-TV, WGN, etc.)
 
3)     Contact person’s name
 
4)     Contact person’s title
 
5)     Contact person’s phone number
 
6)     Contact person’s FAX number
 
7)     Contact person’s e-mail address
 
8)     Contact person’s preferred method of contact (e.g., e-mail, phone, fax, or some combination, etc.)
 
9)     Alternate contact person’s name
 
10)   Alternate contact person’s phone number
 
11)   Alternate contact person's FAX number
 
12)   Alternate contact person’s e-mail address
 
13)   Alternate contact person’s preferred method of contact (e.g., e-mail, phone, fax, or some combination, etc.)
 


Chapter Four
Recognizing Press Release Opportunities

 
In a recent survey of ACB affiliates, we asked what some of the reasons were that the affiliates and chapters weren’t obtaining more media coverage, such as that obtained through press releases.  The most common answer: they had no idea what constituted a press release opportunity.  Therefore, this chapter is devoted to this vitally important issue.
 
To achieve maximum media exposure for your organization, you must become aware of every possible media and press release opportunity.  Just as successful politicians are media opportunists, you too must become media opportunity conscious and take full advantage of every opportunity to gain media exposure for your affiliate or chapter. 
 
Described below are 17 examples of press release opportunities that your organization might be able to capitalize on.  This list is not meant to be an all-inclusive list; it is meant to inspire your thought processes and creative thinking.
 
Is there a raging controversy that impacts your organization's members?
 
For some reason, it seems to be human nature to be captivated by controversial issues.  Is your organization directly involved in some kind of local controversy?  Is there some controversy going on in your community that has the potential to affect your organization?  For instance, has one of your members been hit by a vehicle when crossing a dangerous intersection where an audible traffic signal should be placed?  Are taxi drivers refusing to transport blind people in your community if they are traveling with guide dogs?  Is your city considering replacing all of its vehicles, including city buses, with hybrid or electric vehicles, which would pose a serious hazard to blind people in your area?  These are just a few examples of potential controversial issues that could provide an excellent media and press release opportunity for your organization.  
 
Has your organization (or its members) accomplished some major achievement that would be of interest to the public?
 
Perhaps your affiliate or chapter was recognized as the most outstanding non-profit organization in your community this year.  If so, that is certainly a press release opportunity.  Recognition or awards are often given by city mayors, city councils, or by colleges or universities.  If your organization was the recipient of any such awards, it is definitely a press release opportunity and potential media event.  For instance, most universities have programs that work with various organizations in the community as a part of its emphasis on engaging students with the community and getting them involved with local business and organizations, including non-profits.  Many of these programs have awards and various ways of recognizing the firms and organizations with which they associate.  Western Kentucky University, for example, has a very active American Humanics Program that holds a banquet each year, during which it recognizes several non-profits for all kinds of achievements.  If your organization has won such an award or received such recognition, it is worthy of a press release and can be turned into a media event.
 
In like manner, such an award or recognition might have been earned by one of your affiliate or chapter members, rather than the organization.  That also can be turned into a press release opportunity not only to highlight the achievement of that member, but to gain recognition for your organization as well.  For instance, if Debbie Grubb, president of the Florida Council of the Blind, were awarded the "Most Outstanding Leader of Non-Profits in the State of Florida" for this year by the American Association of Non-Profit Organizations, it would be an excellent press release opportunity not only to give additional recognition to Debbie Grubb, but it also would offer a perfect opportunity to gain major recognition for the Florida Council and its several chapters.
 
Is your organization sponsoring some important event?
 
If your affiliate or chapter sponsors any kind of event, especially if it is open to the public, it is an excellent press release opportunity and media event.  For instance, if your group is sponsoring or performing a music concert, you certainly need to get it publicized as widely as possible.  One part of that promotional effort is to write and distribute press releases. The same applies if your organization is sponsoring any kind of an event, like a fishing tournament, a golf tournament, a tennis tournament, a "Dining in the Dark" evening in conjunction with a local restaurant, the showing of an audio-described movie, etc.  Some of these kinds of events might be fundraisers for your organization; others might just be activities for achieving public education and awareness of your organization.  Regardless of the reason for the event, these are all excellent press release opportunities and outstanding media events. 
 
Does your affiliate or chapter offer a scholarship?
 
If your affiliate or chapter offers one or more scholarships, this poses a wonderful opportunity for a press release to get the word out to your target audience and to the community.  It does not have to be a large scholarship.  A small ($250) scholarship will gain your local media’s attention.  Of course, the larger the scholarship and the more scholarships you offer, the more likely it will resonate with your newspaper editors and news directors.  An added benefit is that it is an excellent way of recruiting new members too.
 
Is your organization offering some new service?
 
If your affiliate or chapter is offering some new service, or if it is re-packaging an existing service, it can be a perfect opportunity for you to make the grand announcement using a press release.  Are you offering some new program targeting senior citizens or a program aimed at blind kids or parents of blind children?  Are you offering computer training to blind and low-vision people in your area?  Are you sponsoring a new descriptive audio service to describe live plays in your community?  These can all be press release opportunities.  While we are using the word "new" here, the service doesn't really have to be entirely new.  As you know, it is a common marketing practice to re-package or re-formulate existing products and services and then, roll them out as "new" or "new and improved."  You can do the same thing.  It doesn't require a major overhaul of the entire service; a small change can constitute something as new or new and improved, allowing you to make such a claim.    
 
Has your organization conducted some poll or survey that has important findings of interest to the public?
 
While the question here pretty much addresses the point, an example might help refine the issue.  Recently, the South Central Kentucky Council of the Blind conducted an exhaustive survey of all the restaurants in the greater Bowling Green area to determine whether they had braille menus and an accessible web site from which menu items could be ordered, delivered, etc.  The survey results earned the SCKCB two press release opportunities: 1) when they announced the general findings of the survey, and 2) when the SCKCB declared one particular restaurant in the area as the winner of the "Most Accessible and Useful Website."  This also turned into a media event when the award was presented to the owner of the restaurant.  Both the local newspaper and TV station sent reporters to cover the event, and SCKCB received considerable coverage in the media. 
 
Your organization might do a survey dealing with public transportation, or the public's knowledge about blindness, or any number of topics that directly or indirectly impact your organization.  However, it needs to be something that will also be of interest to the community.  If it generates some controversy, that is all the better.  Editors and news directors love to publicize controversial issues because it gets their readers, listeners and viewers stirred up and increases the likelihood that the people will continue to read the newspaper, listen to the radio or watch the TV for the latest information about the controversy.   
 
Is your organization involved in any legislation that would be of interest to the public?
 
As a non-profit, 501(c)(3) entity, you cannot participate in political lobbying.  However, you can certainly support legislation that affects blind people and the individuals in your organization.  You can implement your PR effort by contacting your lawmakers, and you can also take advantage of the power of the press by writing press releases addressing issues of legislative concern or announcing the passage of legislation that has a positive impact on blind and low-vision people.  For instance, if your state were to pass a bill requiring all businesses in your state to have fully accessible web sites by a specified date, that would not only be of great interest to blind people, but it would also be of interest to all of the businesses in your area, including the advertisers in your local newspapers, radio and TV stations.  
 
Is your organization launching a new web site or a new service associated with your web site?
 
Recently, the South Central Kentucky Council of the Blind added a new resource section to its web site.  This gave the SCKCB the perfect opportunity to send out a press release to all of the local media.  Its headline read "New Resource Available to Assist People with Poor Eyesight."  Since lots of people can identify with having poor eyesight, that headline was crafted to capture maximum attention from the editors and news directors because it targeted lots of their readers, listeners, and viewers.  As mentioned earlier, the SCKCB also conducted a survey of local restaurants that generated press release opportunities, and one of the press releases included the point that all of the findings from the survey could be found on the SCKCB web site.  For that matter, your web site, or any part of it, doesn't have to be new to give your affiliate or chapter a press release opportunity.  Just the fact that you have such a resource available that contains lots of valuable information for the public and for blind and low-vision people is reason enough to draft a press release to let the public know about it. 
 
Is your organization kicking off a new fundraiser
or capital campaign?
 
If your affiliate or chapter is holding a "Dining in the Dark" fundraiser, or a music concert fundraiser, or a walk-a-thon or some other fundraising or capital campaign, it is an excellent press release and media opportunity.  While it is a fundraiser for your organization, you need to stress the benefits to the participating public.  For instance, one chapter showed the movie “Ray” as a part of Disability Awareness Month, which served the purpose of public education.  It also served as a fundraiser, and provided an excellent press release opportunity.  Another chapter conducted a baked goods sale as a fundraiser in front of its local Wal-Mart store, and put out a press release promoting the sale. The chapter emphasized the big variety of yummy baked goods that would be available at reasonable prices.  Wal-Mart contributed matching funds, which doubled the amount of the fundraiser.
  
Is your organization putting on a convention, conference, or workshop?
 
Most of our affiliates hold a convention each year, and this provides an opportunity to get out a press release across your entire state announcing the convention.  Or your affiliate or chapter might be sponsoring or hosting a conference, training seminar or workshop.  These are all excellent press release opportunities, and these are the types of events that should be used to get press releases out to all of the major media across your entire state.  It takes a little effort to develop a list of all newspapers, radio and TV stations in your state, but once it is done, it can be used over and over. 
 
Is your affiliate starting a new chapter?
 
If your affiliate is starting a new chapter, this gives you an excellent opportunity for a press release.  The press release would probably target the specific geographic area in which the new chapter is going to be located since it would be of little interest to the editors and news directors in other areas.  However, this gives you not only the opportunity to publicize the new chapter, but also to tell the public a little about your affiliate and its affiliation with the ACB.  Again, emphasis should be placed on the benefits of belonging to the ACB, your affiliate, and especially the new chapter.
 
Is your organization opening an office or moving?
 
If your affiliate or chapter establishes a new office to facilitate its business, then that is worthy of a press release to let the public know you exist and where the new office is.  Or if you are moving your office from one location to another, that, too, is a press release opportunity.  It will give you another chance to tell the public you exist, where you will be located, and what kinds of services you provide blind and low-vision people, people who are losing their eyesight, or parents of blind children. 
 
Are you holding a competition or contest?
 
As you can surmise, these press release and media opportunities are not mutually exclusive.  They may overlap.  For an example, an event, discussed earlier in this chapter, might also be a contest or competitive activity.  If your affiliate or chapter is having a golf tournament or tennis tournament where it is the beneficiary, then you certainly want to let the public know about it with a press release.  You might even hold a fishing tournament with a blind person paired up with a sighted contestant to form a team that would compete against other similarly paired teams.  Not only could that be an excellent fundraiser, but it is also worthy of a press release and a full-scale media event with TV coverage.  One group conducted a competitive scavenger hunt and another conducted a treasure hunt; both got press coverage as a result of a well-written press release.  
 
Do you have news that could affect people's health or make life easier for them?
 
Two of the most attended meetings of the South Central Kentucky Council of the Blind's monthly meetings were when it invited a well-known ophthalmologist in to discuss various types of eye diseases and the different research efforts currently engaged in to find a cure for them, and when it invited a supplier of all types of adaptive health-oriented equipment to discuss and demonstrate what he sold, such as talking thermometers, talking blood pressure monitors, talking glucose monitors, etc.  These provided excellent opportunities to get out a press release to invite the public, to publicize information about the SCKCB, and to recruit new members.
 
Are you holding an event in conjunction with a holiday or special occasion (e.g., White Cane Safety Day)?
 
Over the course of the year, there are several special occasions that pose press release opportunities for your affiliate or chapter.  A calendar of such occasions is presented later in this chapter.  White Cane Safety Day offers an excellent opportunity to publicize your organization.  Do you hold a Christmas party or spring or summer picnic?  Do you have some activity in commemoration of Louis Braille's birthday?  Do you have some activity in conjunction with Disability Month?  These are all opportunities for your organization to plan an activity that will get out the word about your group and pose excellent press release and media opportunities to promote these functions.


Is your organization taking legal action against some company or another organization?
 
As hard as we try to avoid taking legal action to enforce our legal rights as blind people, sometimes it simply cannot be avoided.  For instance, your organization, or one of its members, might be forced to file a lawsuit to enforce the guide dog access laws.  Perhaps there is a store or restaurant in your area that does not allow blind people with guide dogs to enter their place of business.  There may be a state agency that has a totally inaccessible web site, and after repeated requests and warnings, your organization seeks a legal remedy to the problem.  These are all press release opportunities, and media coverage of these kinds of situations helps your organization’s credibility as an organization that takes action on behalf of its members and on behalf of blind people, but it also puts other similar businesses on notice that they’d better take a look at their operating policies and procedures.  Also, it increases the likelihood that the coverage will include your organization's side of the issue.  Such press releases are very effective, but the wording of these kinds of releases is extremely important and should be carefully scrutinized before being sent out to the media.
 
Is your organization recognizing someone in your community for his/her outstanding service to blind people or people with disabilities?
 
If your organization has some kind of recognition or award whereby it acknowledges the outstanding contributions of a business, another organization, and an individual in your community, this is a really great chance for you to get out the word with a press release.  In fact, this is such a wonderful opportunity that if your affiliate or chapter doesn't currently have such a means of recognition, it probably should adopt such an award to give each year or whenever some firm, organization, or individual in your area is worthy of it.  These are the kinds of situations that the media loves to cover and a press release promoting such an event is almost guaranteed to get in print and/or on air.  Your organization might recognize a business in your state or community that has an especially outstanding record of employing blind people.  You might have an individual who has dedicated a substantial part of his/her life to helping blind people and/or your organization.  These kinds of situations are certainly worthy of acknowledgement, an award or plaque, and a press release to publicize it.
 
Some Concluding Comments
 
It is obvious from the preceding scenarios that each of our affiliates and chapters has numerous press release and media opportunities available to them to take advantage of each year.  It is possible, with a little forethought, to create media events to help educate the public about blindness, blindness-related issues, and activities in which our members participate or your affiliate or chapter sponsor.  When you put it in the context of the ending of chapter one, with over 70 of our affiliates and most of our over 300 chapters taking advantage of such opportunities, we could be putting out hundreds of press releases every year.  ACB would be the very first resource any media outlet in the country would think of when something blind- or low-vision-related came up.
 
To assist you even more when thinking about press release opportunities that might be available to your affiliate or chapter, we are going to present a calendar of potential activities and events throughout the year that relate to press release possibilities.
 
Events Calendar Your Affiliate or Chapter Can Tie Into for Great Press Release Opportunities
 
How do you make press releases a routine part of your affiliate's or chapter's public education and publicity activities?  How do you know what topics are most likely to capture the attention of the media?
 
The media uses an extensive events calendar, not just to plan advance stories but also for tie-ins with marketing and advertising.  In this section, we have brainstormed, rifled through and stripped down that calendar for ways to piggyback your events with issues already on the media radar screen.  Below is a calendar of events that you can use for press release opportunities for your ACB affiliate or chapter.
 
While this calendar tends to focus on more national level events, you can quite easily customize this calendar by also including important events in your region.  Consistently feeding good information to the media puts your name in their rolodex. For example, some states are working on Disability History Week legislation, and in Washington state, it passed.  For more detailed information, go to the Museum of Disability History web site, http://disabilityhistoryweek.org/.  The Washington Council of the Blind's History Committee, for example, could work with its chapters to develop a public education and awareness plan that includes information-rich news releases related to Disability Week legislation, National Disability Month, White Cane Safety Day, and could even wrap special activities around these events that could tie into fundraisers, like bake sales, walk-a-thons, etc.


Media Events Calendar
 
January:
Martin Luther King’s birthday
Super Bowl Sunday
State legislative sessions begin
National Eye Health Care Month
 
February:
ACB Legislative Seminar (could be especially good, particularly if you are making key contacts with
your state’s senators or representatives)
Black History Month
Valentine’s Day
Presidents’ Day
 
March:
National Women’s History Month
Save Your Vision Week
 
April:
Tax returns due (Taxes paid by blind people tied to unemployment of people with disabilities and blind
people specifically; or a possible tie-in with accessible currency)
National Library Week (Possible tie-in with the NLS Digital
Talking Book Program)
National Garden Month
Opening day of baseball
 
May:
National Day of Prayer
National Teacher’s Day
Mother’s Day
Memorial Day
National Physical Fitness and Sports Month (Great opportunity to focus on blind athletes, blind
bowlers, beep baseball, fishing, golf, etc.)
 
June:
Pre-convention publicity releases Father’s Day
Eye Safety Awareness Week
Helen Keller Deaf-Blind Awareness Week
 
July:
ACB national convention publicity releases
Scholarship winners
ADA anniversary
 
August:
Education initiatives and literacy (Possible back-to-school tie-in)
Cataract Awareness Month
National Dog Day (Possible guide dog public education and awareness, including related laws)
 
September:
Labor Day -- possible tie-in to disability/blind unemployment -- recognizing a local firm that has
an excellent employment record, etc. 
Patriot Day (9/11 -- possible tie-in to Homeland Safety
Standards for People with Disabilities)
National Hispanic Heritage Month -- possible tie-in to any affiliate or chapter diversity programs or
materials available in Spanish, etc.
 
October:
Disability Employment Month -- possible tie-in to disability/blind unemployment or recognizing a
local firm that has an excellent employment record, etc. 
White Cane Safety Day
Blind Americans Equality Day
National Disability Month
 
November:
Election Day (Great opportunity for public education and awareness on accessible voting)
Veterans Day -- opportunity to recognize issues related to our blinded veterans
Thanksgiving -- the day after Thanksgiving is the biggest shopping day of the year (great opportunity to tie in accessible shopping, point-of-sale agreements made by ACB, online shopping, etc.)
Good Nutrition Month
 
December:
International Disability Day
Human Rights Day
Christmas
 
Important note: While Jewish holidays actually occur on the same day every year on the Jewish calendar, the Jewish calendar has a different number of days than the more commonly used calendar, because the Jewish calendar is tied to the moon’s cycles instead of the sun’s. The Jewish calendar loses about 11 days relative to the solar calendar every year, but makes up for it by adding a month every two or three years. As a result, the holidays don’t always fall on the same day, but they always fall within the same month or two. The Chinese calendar (which is also lunar) works the same way, which is why Chinese New Year occurs on different days but is always in late January or early February. The Muslim calendar is lunar but does not add months, which is why Ramadan circles the calendar. (From “Judaism 101: A Gentile's Guide to the Jewish Holidays”) 
Therefore, we have not included any of the events that might be special press release opportunities pertaining to these other religions/cultures, not out of disrespect, but because such events vary somewhat from year to year when using the more common sun-cycle-based calendar used in this country.
 
Conclusion
 
This concludes the Press Release Handbook for ACB Affiliates and Chapters.  We sincerely hope you learned something from this treatise and will be inspired to establish a regular system for writing and distributing press releases for your affiliate or chapter.  If you need any assistance in determining whether an activity or event of your organization might be worthy of a press release, or if you need assistance in drafting a press release, contact our Washington office or the chair of the public relations committee, and we will help you as much as we can.  We are generating numerous press releases at the national level each year, but it is up to you to do your part and get out the word about ACB and your affiliate or chapter in your area.  If we all do our parts, we will be successfully blanketing the country and media, telling everyone about ACB, and what we, collectively, are accomplishing.  The impact will be massive!  


References
 
Here are the references we cited and some additional useful resources for writing effective press releases.
 
Building a Press Release: Rules for Writing a Release:
http://www.canadaone.com/promote/newsrelease2.html
 
Effective Press Releases by Jennifer Mattern: 
http://www.squidoo.com/newsreleases
 
How to Write a Press Release or News Release for Distribution (2012),

http://www.squidoo.com/how-to-write-a-press-release-or-news-release
 
How to Write Press Releases That Get Media Attention (2012), by Janet Attard
http://www.businessknowhow.com/marketing/release.htm

 
Judaism 101: A Gentile's Guide o the Jewish Holidays:
        http://www.jewfaq.org/holidayg.htm
 
List of Free Press Release Sites:
        http://socialrealist.com/digital-pr/big-list-of-free-press-
        release-distribution-sites/
 
List of Things Not To Do Regarding Press Releases:
http://www.netpress.org/careandfeeding.html#Anchor-Don't-
         52787
 
News Releases — the Major Communications Tool:
http://www.tldp.org/LDP/Linux-Media-Guide/html/news_releases.html
 
News Releases: Writing News Releases & PSAs
http://mediarelations.ifas.ufl.edu/writingnewsreleasesandPSAs.htm
 
On Writing News Releases | PR Leap Blog:
http://blog.prleap.com/archives/on-writing-news-releases/
 
Press Releases -- How to Write a Press Release:
http://www.publicityinsider.com/release.asp
 
Public Relations List: http://www.volition.com/pr.html
 
The Associated Press, "The Associated Press Stylebook and
Libel Manual, Sixth Trade Edition."  Reading, Mass.:
Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1996.
 
The Missouri Group, "Chapter 9: News Releases," from "News
Reporting and Writing, Third Edition."  New York, N.Y.: St.
Martin's Press, 1988.
 
The Museum of DisABILITY History:
http://disabilityhistoryweek.org/
 
Writing a press release format: the why and how
http://advertising.solveyourproblem.com/free-
publicity/writing_press_release_format_why_how.shtml
 
Writing News Releases:
http://tldp.org/LDP/Linux-Media-Guide/html/writing_releases.html
 
Writing News Releases & PSAs
http://aec.ifas.ufl.edu/mediarelations/writingnewsreleasesand
PSAs.htm
 
Writing Press Releases: 8 Dos and Don'ts, (June, 2012) by
Connie Sung Moyle, Public Relations Manager,
VerticalResponse; http://blog.verticalresponse.com/verticalresponse_blog/2012/
06/writing-press-releases-8-dos-and-donts.html

This webpage last updated March 4, 2013.