Media Outreach Guide
At the appropriate stage of your event planning, our media relations staff can help with publicity.
This step-by-step guide helps groups plan their own media outreach and allows academic departments, student groups and other individuals affiliated with the University to determine if and how our news and editorial services staff can offer support.
- Plan your news release. To encourage reporters to write news articles, you should begin compiling information for your news release at least two weeks before your event. However, keep in mind that calendar listings and ads have to be submitted separately to the events sections of some newspapers as early as a month in advance. Before you decide to issue a release, make sure that guest speakers and others have given appropriate permission to publicize the event and include the media.
- Submit events form. As soon as you have finalized the logistics of your event, fill out our office's events form online. This allows our news and editorial services staff to learn all the basic information we need to determine the level of media support needed. It also gives the our news staff information to consider a Web announcement or Princeton University Bulletin listing.
- Draft the release. Write a release that outlines the who, what, when, where, why and how of the event. Include information about any attendance restrictions, such as if the event is limited to campus media only. The intent is to give reporters all the information they need to explain to the public why the event is significant or why they would want to participate. Therefore, make sure to: Include full information about the time, date and location; explain who planned the event and why; quote at least one representative from the campus department, group or organization that is playing a central role in hosting the event; add comments about how participants will benefit; list all the departments, groups, or agencies hosting the event; and include at least a sentence of biographical information about the main speaker(s) to demonstrate why s/he is qualified to speak on the topic. Near the end of the release, also list the event sponsors. Events expected to attract a large media contingent also should include a media RSVP deadline -- typically two days before the event -- to allow time to make arrangements for potential space and technology needs.
- Designate a media contact for questions. To prepare the release for media distribution, supply the name, e-mail address and phone number of the person that will be designated as the individual the media will contact for additional information. Whenever a release is issued as a University release, a representative from our media relations staff would be the designated contact and handle most remaining logistics for media involvement.
- Submit the release. In most instances, the media relations staff will distribute the release to local media on your behalf. The release will list a department or student representative as the primary contact. However, if the event has sufficient University-based sponsorship or is expected to attract a level of media attention demanding our office's full support, we may use the draft release to develop a University-issued release.
- Adhere to the deadline. The release should be ready to be distributed to reporters no later than eight calendar days before the event -- or at least three days prior to registration for an event requiring registration. Therefore, a completed draft should be submitted to the media relations staff at least 11 days prior to the event.
- Distribute the release. Our staff can distribute news releases on your behalf. Departments that maintain their own lists of reporters may distribute their releases. Please note: When the release is distributed through our online distribution system, it will appear as if it came directly from the e-mail address of the designated media contact. This allows reporters to direct their inquiries to the most appropriate parties.
- Monitor media interest. The designated media contact should compile a list of reporters who express an interest in coming to campus to cover the event.
- Notify media relations staff of broadcast media interest. You must alert the news and editorial services staff as soon as any broadcast media express an interest in attending. Whether broadcast media will be able to cover the event will depend on the technology capacity of the venue, which should be considered during the event planning phase, and the permissions (.pdf) granted by any visiting speakers or guests.
- Decide if you need a media section. You may want to set up a section of reserved media seating at your event if you expect general seating to be limited. In advance of the event, our staff can supply a template for "Reserved for Press" signs for the appropriate number of seats in the section reserved for media.
- Set up press seating. On the day of the event, the media section should be set up near the back of your venue, but on the main floor, to ensure that your speakers and guests seated near the front are not disturbed. Also, try to reserve seats on the aisle for photographers, who need more room and flexibility to stand while taking photos.
- Track media coverage. It's important to find and read the printed or online accounts written by the reporters who attended. Tracking allows you to check articles for accuracy and collect them for your constituents.