Tips for Sharing Your News with the Public
Your grant is an achievement that you should share with your community. Here are some ideas for basic publicity that can help extend the news of your award, build goodwill with your key stakeholders, and educate the public about your value to the community.
Interacting with News Media
Develop a distribution list in advance. To reach the broadest audience, your list should include local newspapers, radio stations, television stations, and wire services, such as the Associated Press. Are there reporters who regularly cover your activities? Address the release to the features editor or education editor at the newspaper and to the assignment editor at television or radio stations. If you do not know who these editors are, make a few phone calls to the news desks to identify the right people to receive your release.
Prepare a News Release. The basic way of communicating with news media about your IMLS grant is with a news release. An effective release provides the “who, what, when, and where” of your news announcement and contact information for someone at your museum or library who can provide additional information. You may also include a quote from the IMLS director and statistics about the number of applicants to the IMLS grant program.
The links below provide information that can be used by grantees to develop news releases, newsletters, and other promotional materials. Each link includes program statistics for the number of applications and recipients for the current year, a program description, and a quote from the IMLS Director. If you have any questions about using the information, contact Giuliana Bullard at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One strategy for getting attention for your release is to tie your announcement to a relevant event or to a current news issue. Is your institution planning a community day, a major announcement, or an anniversary commemoration? Is there an upcoming community-wide arts or humanities week? If you can link your announcement with other activities or events, you increase the chances of capturing media attention. Similarly, you can package your story in the context of other local or national issues by including a quote that ties your grant award to the larger issue.
Issue your release. Email or fax the release to your distribution list. Remember timing. There are a variety of factors that determine whether your story will receive coverage. If there is an urgent news event, hold your release for a quieter news day. The time of day and day of the week are also factors to consider. Remember that morning is often the best time for television, and avoid releasing news on a Friday afternoon or over the weekend. Likewise, Monday mornings can be crowded with big news that was not covered over the weekend.
Pitch the story. Follow up your release by calling your key media contacts to confirm their receipt and to pitch your story. Present the facts quickly and emphasize why this would interest readers or viewers. If there is interest and relevance, you might offer to set up an interview with the director or a behind-the-scenes tour of your facility.
Social media sites are powerful tools for sharing news of your institution with a potentially large number of people and engaging them in an interactive way. Using social media can be economical; the sites require only an email address to establish your presence. To maintain them, however, requires an investment of time because visitors expect content that is timely and new.
Facebook and Twitter are among the most popular social media vehicles.
Here is basic information about creating content for Facebook and Twitter.
Facebook: Though you can post as much as you’d like on Facebook, keep it simple. When you add a link to a website, picture, or video to you post, a short description and thumbnail image will appear, after which you may delete the URL on the text of your post. Include only one link per post. You should also upload photos and video onto your Facebook page to keep it engaging. Include descriptive captions.
Twitter: Every post is called a tweet, and tweets are limited to 140 characters, including links, Twitter handles, and hashtags. A handle is another user’s name with the “@” symbol in front of it. IMLS’s handle is @US_IMLS. Clicking on it from a tweet links you to the IMLS website. A hashtag is any word (no symbols or spaces) with the ‘#’ symbol in front of it, which makes your post searchable to other users. Including #IMLSGrant in your tweet puts your message in the good company of other messages from and about IMLS grant recipients.
You can add links to tweets, but because web addresses, or URLs, are often very long, consider shortening your links using Bitly, or another site for shortening URLs.
To add a photo to a tweet, click the photo icon when you’re typing in the text and upload an image from your computer, which will appear as a link to “pic.twitter.com.”
Because of their brevity, tweets can easily be sent from cell photos and other mobile devices.
For detailed information about working with news media and social media, see the National Endowment for the Art’s Working with the Media Toolkit. The pdf file is linked here with permission from the National Endowment for the Arts: http://www.arts.gov/manageaward/Working-with-the-Media-Toolkit.pdf. If you have any questions about the suggestions in the NEA Toolkit, please contact the IMLS Office of Communications and Government Affairs at 202-653-4757.