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Getting Your Best (Media) Press (Part 1)

DLI webinar explores how to get media coverage by having a plan

LAUREL, Md. — Getting your dry cleaning business in the news is more than the simple “free advertising” that many owners aim to create. Gaining coverage for positive actions you make in the community, or being seen as an expert in your field, generates not only awareness in the public’s eye but puts your company in its most favorable light.

Of course, the first step in getting the coverage is to let the press know about it.

As part of a series of webinars for members conducted via Zoom, the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute (DLI) presented “How to Write a Press Release,” led by DLI Communications Director Harry Kimmel. The course broke down into two parts — how to deliver a release with the best chance of coverage and what goes into creating a release that gets results.

Kimmel, who used to work in print journalism, sums up the problem pretty clearly. “We used to go through the press release file, look at them and throw 90% of it in the trash because they were junk,” he says. The ones that did garner coverage, he says, were well-organized and told a story it was easy to imagine running in the paper.

“A question you have to answer: Is your event newsworthy?” Kimmel says, stressing the importance of keeping the potential audience in mind before crafting the release. “Why would anyone care about it? Why is this important to your audience?”

What and When

Events that aid the local population can often get placed in media. “One universal theme that you can always fall back on,” Kimmel says, “is when you're benefiting the community or giving back to the people who've created your success.”

Certain events have a natural timeline — coat drives in the winter, for instance, or prom dress drives in the spring — but other activities can be accomplished at any time. Cleaning clothes for unemployed people for job interviews, teddy bear drives for children or flag cleaning for veterans’ funerals are year-round opportunities.  

A factor that many people ignore when it comes to getting coverage, Kimmel says, is timing. Preparing as far in advance as possible is crucial. You should give the press at least one month’s notice, with a second release and/or a telephone call two weeks before the event. This gives you the best chance of making it onto the media’s radar.

Also, be mindful of what else is going on in the community at the time. To illustrate, Kimmel brought up that, in 1997, Princess Diana and Mother Teresa died within a week of each other. News of Diana’s passing dominated that news cycle. “The fact is that some news will steamroll other news,” he says. “So, if something big is happening in your area, maybe move your event so that you don't lose your opportunity to get noticed.”

Shrinking Staffs, More Opportunity

The media in general, and newspapers in particular, have smaller staffs and fewer resources than ever before. So, if your release is well prepared, presented correctly and is of interest to an audience, the odds of getting picked up have never been better.

“Back in the day, we didn't just print releases the way they were written,” Kimmel says. “We would send a reporter and a photographer to cover an event or learn more about it. Now, you can almost get it in there verbatim because they don't have the staff to send someone. You can have a lot more success with this, of course, if it's written well.”

Next Tuesday, in Part 2, we’ll look at what goes into a well-written, well-prepared release and how you can increase your chances of making a positive impression on your community.