Next to editorial coverage, community listings are the best way for public relations departments to build awareness of an upcoming event through the media–generally at no cost. Maximizing listings coverage can help increase public turnout, and create the numbers to boast about in future public relations materials. If four key community listings each draw just 10 people to a 200 seat speaking engagement, that’s 40 attendees–20 percent of the audience–found without spending one advertising dollar.
Yet such listings are often treated as an afterthought in public relations and event planning. Many organizers and public relations agents do not inform community calendars until the week of the event. At that point, listings in monthly and weekly publications have gone to print. Even if an editor from a daily media outlet is forgiving about the short notice, running it right before the event may not give the public enough time to respond.
Similar to the preparation of a press release distribution, community calendars require research and strategy.
One common assumption is that a press release sent to an editor or producer will automatically make its way to the staff who compile the community announcements. This is rarely the case. Most established media operations have a separate listings editor or a designated coordinator in the newsroom. This is the person to contact. You should also know their preferences for when–i.e. mid-month, 10 days notice, etc.–and how–i.e. e-mail, fax, standard mail, etc.–to receive announcements.
Community listings are found in the following media:
— Print. Major daily newspapers (various sections); community, cultural/ethnic, and city publications (daily, weekly, and monthly); the university and college press; special interest publications (i.e. seniors, parenting, health); and trade publications (i.e. technology, enterprise, venture capital).
— The web, including community and city sites. Most major North American cities have a citysearch.com affiliated site. Local newspaper groups may have a community web site with monthly event calendars. Others local sites with such listings may include municipal, corporate, and local business sites, non-profit sites, and personal web pages. Industry, trade, and special interest web sites may also have applicable event calendars. Some sites may have a self-service feature to add listings.
— Radio. Depending on market size, some radio stations may have community calendar segments during the week, while others may direct listing coverage to any applicable shows.
— Television, especially community cable. This may include local news or talk shows. Many community cable stations have listings as part of their regular schedule running throughout the week.
In preparing your community listing, less is more. Sending a full press release is not necessarily the best way to present information to the listings editor. Most community calendars only allow a sentence or two to describe each event, and the editor will not have time to read through your release and write a summary. To communicate the most relevant information to announcements, set-up a community listings template. A good template should include:
— The event title.
— When and where the event is taking place.
— The cost, if applicable. If any proceeds go to charity, specify.
— A contact name and telephone number.
— A summary of the event in 25 words or less; 10 to 15 words is best. Studying community calendar sections of targeted media outlets will help you to prepare.
If eye-catching, a well-written community listing may be worth including in a press release distribution. A news editor or reporter may take a moment to read your listing, and become more inclined to review your entire press release.
Creating a contact system for community listings will be an investment of time for a public relations firm, particularly during the contact system’s first use. However, it will ultimately allow you to quickly and efficiently notify a range of community calendars for subsequent events. The template will also serve you in sending press releases, or notifying relevant organizations.
This article, written by Adam Bello, originally appeared in PR Fuel (http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel), a free weekly newsletter from eReleases (http://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit: http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel/subscribe/.