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Hitting the Headlines During SVW

Posted on 6 Feb 2015

As SVW draws closer, it’s time to think about the local profile of the campaign. It’s one thing raising awareness of the amazing impact of student volunteers on campus at your university or college - but what about the thousands (or even millions) of other people who live in your community?

There are three really good reasons why you should be reaching for local press coverage:

  • It meets one of the key aims of SVW - celebrating the work that students do in their communities each year, and the impact that their volunteering has.
  • It helps to break down negative preconceptions about the ‘typical’ student lifestyle among long-term residents in university cities. You may not read the local paper much, but a good-news story is always welcome!
  • It’s a useful tool for connecting with new community partners who could use your volunteering power. Think of it as free advertising.

How to get press coverage

1. Map the landscape

The first step is to map your landscape. What are the newspapers, radio stations and TV news outlets in your area? A quick Google will show you the contact details of their ‘news desk’, the first port of call if you are pedalling a press release.

2. Get in touch

Daunting as it may seem, it is important to introduce yourself. Ask for the best person to talk to about a community story and, once you’ve tracked them down, start to build a relationship. Tell them more about Student Volunteering Week and the activities you will be coordinating at your university or college. Be sure to highlight the connection to the local community - this is the ‘angle’ which will interest the journalist as it includes and is relevant to their target audience. You can find key messages for SVW in this Comms Pack

3. Send a press release

Once you’ve piqued their interest, follow up with a press release. A press release offers journalists all the key information about a news story: the what, where, who and how. The structure is simple, and you can use it time and time again.


Press release template

Don't forget that you can also use the example press release & key messages in this Comms pack.

For immediate release: [date] (if you want the journalist to use the story as soon as they receive it)

Embargoed for: [time/date] (if you are giving a journalist time to prepare to do not want them to publish the story until a specified time)

Headline:

Photo opportunity: (what, where, when and contact details)

Paragraph 1: Summarise the story - who, what, where, when and why. All key information needs to be in this paragraph

Paragraph 2: Put in more details to flesh out the story you have outlined in the first paragraph

Paragraph 3: “Quotes from you or someone relevant to the story.” Don’t try to cram too many points into one quote – each quote should make one point.

Paragraph 4: Extra relevant information

Ends.

Remember to include your contact details!


Characteristics of great press releases

So, what makes a great press release - one that journalists are going to want to put in their newspaper? While the story behind SVW is compelling in itself, with a lot of competition in the news market it is important to set your press release apart. Some things to remember as you’re writing your press release are:

  • Photo opportunities - some bright pictures to illustrate your story are always a bonus; plus, it means you’re likely to get more space on the page!
  • Exclusives - can you offer the newspaper/radio show/TV news station an interview or announcement which no-one has heard before?
  • Celebrities - are their any local, national or even international celebrities who are connected to your community and could be tied into your story? Maybe they are a patron for the charity you volunteer for, or used to attend your university. Can you ask them to comment on your activities for SVW or, better yet, come to your event?
  • Evidence - have you got any statistics, feedback or other evidence which supports what you’re saying in your story? Finding out the number of students who volunteer in your community is a good start, but you could also think about amount of money raised for good causes, pounds of sugar used to create the biggest bake sale ever, tonnes of vegetable seeds planted in a community garden…

There you have it: all the tools you need to get your SVW story in the headlines! Good luck!

Zoe Conn

Zoe is the Communications Manager for Student Hubs

Categories: Advice