People often ask us to draft a press release for their project, but that isn’t the best approach for every target audience. It really depends on who you’re trying to reach and what sort of information you want to tell them.
You’re working on a project, and you want to speak to the public. You need a press release, right?
While the local media remains a useful channel to speak to people, it has a particular audience that might not suit the information you want to provide – and that’s the most important thing you need to consider when speaking to the public.
For instance, if your project is a new app for teenagers, then the local paper is not where you should direct all your efforts.
Let’s take a look at the channels the Council has for speaking to people who live and work in Renfrewshire.
The local papers are a good way to reach an older audience interested in updates about their local community. Things like new roads being created or upgraded, changes to local buildings, the development of our towns and villages, and the work going on in our schools always goes down well.
The local papers have also embraced social media. They’ll publish our media releases on their websites and social media channels and apps. This helps us reach more people than the printed edition alone did in the past, which is why it’s still wise to use the local media as a channel.
When we issue a press release, it goes out to local online publications and radio outlets, too. If you want to reach an audience on a local level, then this method can still be beneficial.
We can also issue a press release to national publications, but the content would need to have a wider interest than purely Renfrewshire. For example, national publications will likely pick up a story on the Paisley Halloween Festival, but not on a change to the local grass cutting programme.
It’s also important to issue good quality pictures with a press release.
These can often be more important than the words, as they will grab the attention of the journalists you want to print your release – and can often tell the story for you.
We can carry out a photocall for you. This includes hiring a photographer, arranging with you who will be in the photos and setting a time and location, ensuring an elected member is there if required, and being available to run the photocall on the day where appropriate.
You’ll need a budget of around £100/£150 for a standard photocall, so factor this into your planning. The photos can go on our social media and other channels, too, so they will have a further purpose than purely in the media.
Our social media channels are a proven way of reaching our communities in Renfrewshire. But you shouldn’t think that sending out a tweet means your engagement with communities is complete.
Our Facebook page has more than 27,000 followers; they’re mostly female, including lots of parents, so content for this audience will work well.
We aim to use case studies on our Facebook page, so we’ll ask you for a person who can represent the project, and we’ll interview them. People engage with the posts well when it comes from a human angle. Again, we’ll always ask for a photo to accompany it.
We can also use Facebook stories to highlight something for 24 hours, as well using local community Facebook groups, which work really well for reaching communities directly.
For example, if there’s information that relates only to Johnstone, then we would use the local Facebook groups rather than our own channel, where it wouldn’t be relevant to a large portion of our followers.
On Twitter, we have more than 29,000 followers. We use this channel for breaking news and to reach businesses and media outlets.
We use Instagram for highlighting people, places, and events from around Renfrewshire. We don’t usually use it for information or awareness raising. But if your content fits the channel, then we can use it.
On LinkedIn, we try to reach other professionals, celebrate our staff, and advertise jobs within the Council. Again, it’s a channel used for specific reasons, but if your project fits, then we’ll use it.
We have our own YouTube channel, which can house videos created for the public. We also use it to show the livestreams of our board meetings.
It’s important that you keep the elected members for the community your project relates to, or all elected members when appropriate, up to date on work that is taking place in their area.
They are elected to represent their communities so can provide local knowledge, advise on how residents are likely to receive it, and assist in communicating the information locally.
We suggest you email the elected members in advance of a project launch. We can support you with this.
Another set of stakeholders that you should also seek to involve in your promotion is the Local Partnership(s) and Community Council(s) for that area.
Their fellow residents elect them to have their say on local issues, so they are the perfect people to help promote a project or campaign locally. They play a similar role to elected members in terms of promotion and feedback.
For projects that are likely to affect residents or businesses in a particular area, it can be beneficial to send a letter to them directly before it launches or work begins.
Consider a new cycle route being added to a road. You should send any homes or premises on the route a letter notifying them of the plans. This should include a contact number or email to allow them to discuss it and raise any questions or concerns. Resolving issues prior to works commencing will reduce the risk of project scrutiny further down the line.
Do our partners, such as Police, Fire and Rescue, Engage Renfrewshire, UWS or West College Scotland and others, need to know about your project? Will it affect them in any way?
If so, you should contact them in advance and take their feedback on board. We can support you to prepare the communications that go out to them.
They will also be able to help us spread the word through their own channels if that’s appropriate.
If your project is likely to have a big impact on a community or the area as a whole, then you may need to host in-person roadshows.
Hosting roadshows allows you to speak directly to people in the community, get their thoughts and opinions, and explain more about the project. It is a key part of a mass consultation exercise and, while time-consuming, it is a really important way to ensure local people are aware of and engaged with your project.
This helps secure buy-in from the start and plays a big part in preventing complaints further down the line.
In the right place, a roadshow can be hugely beneficial to the success of your project.
Many staff members at the Council will also be residents of the area, so it’s important that you consider using our internal communications channels, too.
We have the fortnightly Take 5, our Council newsletter, the quarterly staff magazine, the Manager’s Forum, and Yammer, where we can put our information that we want staff to be aware of, pass on, or take part in.
The Everyone emails (or ‘all-user’ emails) are only used for specific purposes so wouldn’t be appropriate for promoting individual projects.
Our marketing and design teams are also key parts of the communication process.
If you have budget available, the marketing team can support with high-profile advertising, such as TV, radio, print, online, Facebook ads, bus stops, vehicle branding, and a variety of other methods which can give your project a national reach.
Our designers can help create marketing materials, graphics, signage, and anything related to the branding of your project – but it’s important to recognise that not every project needs its own logo and brand.
Press releases are important, but there are a wide range of channels that the communications, marketing, and design teams can use to promote or raise awareness of a project.
However, the content must be right for each channel. We also need to use as many channels as relevant to a particular audience – although this will mean approaching each in a different way.
We want to ensure our communities, partners, and stakeholders are aware of all the positive work that we as a Council are doing, so please work with us as early as possible in your project to allow us to do this.
The more time you give us, the better quality of communications support we can give you.
You can request support using our online form on The Thread.
So yes, you might need a press release. But in reality, you probably need a whole lot more.