Every year I enjoy a remarkable opportunity to interview students enrolled in the Young Entrepreneurs Academy in Grand Junction.
One of the most rewarding perks of my job is talking with entrepreneurs — in particular how they come up with their ideas and differentiate their operations from competitors. It’s all the more fun to talk with the middle and high school students who participate in the YEA program about the wildly creative businesses they’ve launched.
In addition to the interviews, I’ve been privileged to join in an exchange in which representatives from local media outlets talk to the students about working with newspapers and radio and television stations to cover their ventures. The starting point of that process is pitching stories through news releases.
Here’s where a column that starts out describing the joys of talking to young entrepreneurs evolves into a rant about news releases and then a plea to an older and wider audience.
First, the rant. I’m reminded of what the late, great curmudgeon Andy Rooney said during one of his popular television segments: “I’ve had quite a few complaints lately from people who like it when I complain about things. They say I haven’t complained about anything lately. So tonight, for you complaint fans, I have a complaint.”
My nearly constant complaint is this: The news releases I receive are seldom submitted in a timely manner. If I had a nickel for every news release I’ve received too late to publish, I’d have, well, a whole lot of nickels. Maybe enough to retire.
I understand news releases are submitted to an assortment of media outlets with different schedules. Many of those outlets publish or broadcast news on a daily basis. Websites offer even more immediacy in reporting news. I get it.
Nonetheless, if a business owner or communications director or marketing agency is serious about pitching a story idea or promoting an event, do a little homework. Consider the publication schedules of business journals that don’t publish every day.
If you’re uncertain about deadlines, ask. I suspect most editors and news directors are happy — eager even — to answer those questions. I know I am.
My email address and phone number appear at the end of this column.
Here’s the thing. It serves absolutely no one to submit a news release or pitch a story idea about an event that occurs the next day if a newspaper doesn’t publish another issue until the next week.
There are probably those who send me releases and then are disappointed because their news doesn’t appear in print. Maybe they believe I’m negligent or even oblivious. In actuality, I’m just as frustrated as they are.
I want to publish local business news. The more the better, in fact. But I’ve long ago lost track of how many news releases I would have loved to run, but didn’t because they were submitted too late. By the way, there’s no such thing as too early.
That’s what I told students participating in the YEA program. That’s also what I’d tell any entrepreneur or organization interested in publicizing their operations or upcoming events.
Allow me to mention one more bit of advice I shared with the YEA students.
If you want coverage, make my job easier. That might sound self-serving. Perhaps it is. But think about a key attribute of any successful business relationship: everyone benefits. You receive publicity that promotes your business. I provide news that informs readers. Win-win.
Make my job easier by not only submitting news releases in a timely fashion, but also including information about how I can contact you. Who knows? I might want to write a feature-length story about your venture and slap your photo on the cover. That actually happens. A lot.
If I do attempt to contact you, please respond promptly and accommodate my requests. I’ve also lost count of how many stories I wanted to write, but didn’t because my emails and phone calls weren’t returned quickly enough — or even at all. Like most editors and news directors, I move on to other stories if I encounter too much difficulty. Kind of defeats the whole purpose of a news release, doesn’t it?
In talking with young entrepreneurs in the YEA program over the years, I hope I’ve offered some practical information they can use in promoting their ventures in the media. I hope those entrepreneurs who’re older are listening as well.
Phil Castle is editor of the Business Times. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 424-5133.