Forget all you learned about winning friends and influencing people. Newspaper people (and this is written by a former one) are crusty individuals who pride themselves at not being swayed by pleasantries or gifts. Free food, maybe …
What really wins their hearts are honesty, transparency, courtesy, and competence. Deliver those things and you’ll be fine.
Some small businesses lend themselves well to events that draw customers in. Coffee houses, for example, can invite local musicians to perform. Children’s event centers can hold craft nights.
Meanwhile, events editors at newspapers are always looking for new items to put in their rags. The legitimate papers won’t charge you for listing your event. That isn’t to say that ad-sales reps won’t scan the paper later and try to get you to buy an ad. But legitimate papers won’t make that a prerequisite to getting your event listed.
Here’s what to do:
Make sure it’s an event. Remember, newspapers exist to inform the public. They want their readers to stay abreast of the happenings around town, and it helps them and you to get your legitimate event in the paper. An event is something the public is welcome to attend. It isn’t a product you’re pushing. Don’t burn the editorial bridge by trying to slip in a 50 percent off chicken-wings night.
Determine which publications your customers read. One easy way to find that out is to look at the publications left in your lobby, if you have one. Newspapers and magazines are just as interested in reaching your demographic as you are, so they may have already made themselves known to you.
You could also glance through a copy of a Writer’s Market. You’ll find listings of newspapers as well as consumer and trade magazines, alphabetically or by topic. You’ll also find contact information and submission guidelines. Of course, you want to follow up yourself to make sure all of the information is current.
Get the events or listings editor’s information. Call the newspaper and ask for the editorial department, then ask who handles the newspaper’s events listings. Get that person’s name and email address and by golly, get that person on the phone. Tell that person, “Hello, I’m so-and-so, owner of So-and-So Bistro, and we’re having an open mic night in a couple of weeks. I’d like to send you the details for your listings page.”
Get the deadline. Ask the listings editor about the deadline to submit an event. The sooner you get in your event, the better.
Get the format. Events editors are most likely swimming in potential events to list. The easier you make it for them, the more likely your event will run.
Look through a previous issue to determine how to arrange the information you’re submitting. Some listings follow a bullet-point style; others have a narrative quality. Some listings pages are a combination of both. In any case, you’ll want to include the who, what, when, where, why and how:
What is the event? Include a title and description.
When is it? (day and time)
Where is it? (location)
How much, if anything, does it cost to get in?
Where (phone or website) can people get more information?
You can also include a blurb about the business or your featured artist, or go into greater detail about the event. Just make sure you get the basics in first.
Include a big, fat photograph. Not so big and fat as to get spam-filtered out, but big enough to be high-quality if it were to run. Send a photograph of people enjoying themselves at your establishment, or send a photograph of the featured artist you’re bringing in. Ask the editor about the size requirements for photographs.
Follow up. Call the events editor in a day or so and say, “I’m just following up to make sure you received my information. Is there anything else you need?”
Lather, rinse, repeat. It’s as simple as that.