Newspapers employ half as many journalists as they did a decade ago, according to the Pew Research Center, a byproduct of declining revenue as readers consume more news and information online from non-traditional sources.
That doesn’t necessarily mean news from your company or organization won’t be printed.
You might need to put on a reporter hat, though.
Newshole, the amount of column space devoted to stories, editorials and news briefs, still needs to be filled – with or without a newsroom full of trained journalists. Although many publications still use paid freelance writers, the media’s financial challenges also have impacted freelance budgets.
That’s where you come in. Newspapers and magazines, including traditional corporate-owned media, are filling newshole with submitted content. Business owners, doctors, attorneys, fitness gurus and others can write and submit stories, guest columns and opinion pieces. Although they likely won’t collect freelance paychecks, a banking analyst writing about investment strategies, for example, could see an uptick of customers seeking financial assistance. Or perhaps the president of an environmental awareness group might see more supporters join a cause after reading about an upcoming event.
Since its inception in 1992, Priority Marketing has maintained strong relationships with news organizations across Florida, successfully helping clients publish their news throughout the media spectrum – newspapers, magazines, television and digital. Here are some recent examples of client-submitted content published by local media outlets:
- Fort Myers Miracle in Florida Weekly: New Miracle menu a home run with foodies
- Hughes Center for Functional Medicine in Natural Awakenings: Food is the body’s fuel and medicine
- Guadalupe Center in Naples Daily News: Guadalupe Center opens doors to higher education for Immokalee students
- Lee BIA Builders Care in The News-Press: Need overwhelming for home repairs post-Irma
- Junior Achievement of Southwest Florida in Cape Coral Daily Breeze: Junior Achievement volunteers offer much to Southwest Florida students
Every day, individuals, businesses and organizations submit far more articles, columns, guest opinions, news releases and letters to the editor than can possibly fit in print. That’s why it’s so important that your submission make an editor’s job easier.
Below are six tips to consider when submitting stories to newspapers and magazines:
(1) Recognize the main components of a news story. Articles, even those written by non-reporters, must contain these five elements:
Headline: Usually six to 10 words that entice readers to check out the story. They often contain several keywords to enhance search engine optimization. Including the company or product name is a must.
Byline: The writer’s name, and sometimes job title and company, should be listed at the top or bottom of the text.
Lede: An introductory sentence that can be hard (straightforward and contain the elements of who, what, when, where, why and how) or soft (descriptive language that is catchy or narrative).
Nut graf: This paragraph is a sentence or two that summarizes the article, usually near the top of the text. A separate paragraph might not be necessary when using a hard lede.
Quotes: Firsthand testimonials from eyewitnesses, experts, officials and others with relevant insight. At one time, the standard in journalism was a minimum of three sources, but that’s been relaxed as more reports contain information culled from documents, public records and even other media outlets.
(2) Adhere to AP style. The Associated Press Stylebook is a reporter’s bible, offering clear-cut grammatical rules and guidelines for members of the media. The AP Stylebook is available for purchase online and is updated annually. Is it smartphone or smart phone? Is it homepage or home page? Newspaper editors and designers appreciate the rare times they’re able to just cut and paste submitted content, so providing copy that is clear, concise and grammatically correct certainly enhances the likelihood of it being published.
(3) Provide a photo. Guest columns or stories won’t often make the front page of a newspaper or the first few pages of a magazine. Submitted articles with just text will be placed around advertisements or calendars – wherever it fits. Articles with an appealing photo, however, can be made into a centerpiece for a page, oftentimes with a headline in a larger font.
(4) Know the publication. Don’t try to submit a guest opinion to a magazine that doesn’t publish op-eds, and don’t ask a lifestyle publication to print an article about a business expansion. The media market in Southwest Florida is fortunate to have niche publications, general circulation media and hyperlocal newspapers. Also, know the submission requirements. One newspaper might have a 300-word limit on guest features, while another might accept 900 words. Some allow you to mention your business or product, while others don’t permit any type of self-promotion.
(5) Needs a byline. A byline, as mentioned above, is a critical element of a news story. A guest article written by a president of a local company or director of a nonprofit organization carries a lot more weight than, for instance, a marketing intern. That doesn’t necessarily mean the CEO needs to grab a notebook and start reporting. Staff members can interview the boss to glean some talking points and craft an article on his or her behalf, but it’s of critical importance that the CEO review and approve any copy before it’s submitted for publication.
(6) Be factual. Rule No. 1 in the journalism profession is accuracy, and that goes for both full-time reporters and guest writers. Copy editors might not fact-check submitted articles and opinions, and if a statement turns out to be false, it makes both you and the publication look bad.
Contributed articles offer businesses and organizations an opportunity to brand themselves as experts in their respective field, to promote events and causes, and offer consumer-friendly advice to potential customers or clients. The power of the pen is still mighty, and now more of us have a chance to hold that pen.
Would your business or organization like to see its name in print? Contact Priority Marketing at 239-267-2638 to discuss your public relations needs.