How to Get Your Story Published
By Rebecca Barnes, Publisher
Recently I spoke on a media panel to the members of a not-for-profit association. We gave lots of great tips to help their groups attract attention to their stories. I wanted to share this information also with you, specifically as it relates to Prince William Living. Our magazine is about your community, and, with your help, we can accurately reflect all Prince William offers.
One common question I get is how to get a story published in Prince William Living. Here is information and suggestions that can help you improve your chances of seeing your story run.
FORMAT: Make Sure Your Story Idea Fits
Our format of the print magazine is fairly fixed. To be included in the print version, your subject matter needs to relate to one of the following topics of our regular features, departments and columns. It also must pertain to our readership area: Prince William, which includes Prince William County, Manassas and Manassas Park.
Our departments and columns:
- Feature Story: This usually focuses on or ties into an issue theme, which is scheduled on our editorial calendar a year in advance.
- Destinations: Places to visit or things to do in Prince William.
- Family Fun: Includes but is not limited to crafts, games, cooking, sports and activities for kids.
- Local Flavor: Restaurants in Prince William.
- On a High Note: Artists and the arts in Prince William.
- Giving Back: People who give back to the community through nonprofit efforts that benefit others. This can include individuals, businesses, clubs and other groups that give back.
- Taking Care of Business: “Successful & Innovative” entrepreneurs, inventors and businesses changing the way we do business in Prince William.
- Lifelong Learning: Education, Workforce devlopment and Continuing education stories
- Columns: These include “Your Finances,” “Health & Wellness” and “Home & Hearth.”
TIMING: Think and Plan Ahead
Stories for our magazine are pitched and decided up to six months in advance and assigned at least two months before publication. If you contact us three weeks before an event and ask us to feature your subject in the “Giving Back” section of next month’s issue, you will be disappointed. Because we work at least two months’ ahead, the next month’s issue was written more than a month ago and is already at the printer. We need at least two months’ notice—and ideally more—to plan.
ONLINE: Take Advantage of This Flexible Option
Websites have much more flexibility than print publications, and ours is no exception. Stories can be posted and updated quickly. Our site also has a growing number of new columns and sections on a variety of topics.
Therefore, we could still include your announcement or story on our site online and Facebook page, even if it would be a couple of months before we printed your story in the magazine—or it doesn’t relate to any of the print publication’s section topics. Just make sure your announcement doesn’t conflict with holidays or a similar story that we ran recently.
Our website’s columns provide information for our readers on a growing variety of subjects. They are brief and many include informative advice provided by local business owners. Check out our online columns at www.princewilliamliving.com.
If you are an expert in one of our column topics, feel free to contact me at [email protected] about how to submit content. Or you can pitch or discuss a new column idea with me.
THE PITCH: Promote How Your Story Is Relevant
What is a pitch and how do you pitch your story? To increase your chances of seeing your story run, you need to help us help you. This means helping us understand why your story is important or relevant to the community. You must promote your story idea—what ad agencies call “selling” the story.
Set aside your love for your church, school, business or group and look at your idea with a critical eye. Holding a yard sale to raise money for a good cause? Yawn. You and everyone else. Tell me WHY. How is this relevant to our readers? What impact will it have on them?
If your story doesn’t speak to our audience, it is never going to fly. I don’t say that to be flip; if you don’t create a “why” in your pitch, it will never make it past any editor to their readers. Here are other hard questions to ask yourself regarding your story. Is your story:
- Published somewhere else? If so, then you need to find a new way to keep it fresh.
- Within the scope of our print magazine? (See the magazine’s topics listed under “Format.”)
- An attempt to avoid having a marketing plan and advertising budget for your organization? If your story is completely self-serving, it won’t run.
- Boring? Sorry, but you really do have to ask yourself this.
Let’s assume you can get past these questions with satisfactory answers. Let’s talk about what is next.
EMOTION: Can Our Readers Relate?
Since a goal of Prince William Living is to promote, encourage and inspire all that is positive in our community, we tend to print “happy” stories. However, even sad stories get attention, as long as the loss or tragedy has inspired or promoted positive change. Make sure your story is relatable to our readers.
UNIQUE ANGLE: What Makes Your Story Different?
What makes your story special or stand out? Is there something timely or little known about your story? Do you have behind-the-scenes information or a virtual guided tour in your story? Can you open our readers’ eyes to a subject and give them knowledge they wouldn’t already have? If the answer is “Yes,” then we would be interested, because we believe our readers would be. This greatly increases your story’s chances of being published or posted.
Submit your story ideas here: https://pwliving.wufoo.com/forms/editorial-story-ideas/
Other Questions We Get
Lastly, here are a couple of other common questions we get—and their answers:
Q. Can You Cover My Event?
A. It’s not that we don’t want to; we simply don’t have the manpower to attend all the events we get requests to cover. We don’t have reporters in the traditional sense. We rely on freelance writers, who do not just write for us, but have jobs, volunteer in the community and have families. I will have an easier time convincing one of them to give up some personal time if you help me.
So make it easy. Email us a pitch or press release, invite us to your event and send media passes or entry tickets for easy accessibility. Give us enough notice, and we will do our best.
Worst-case scenario: Have someone in your organization write a press release and send it to us with photos. If the announcement is intended for publication and not just on our site, make sure your photos are in high resolution of at least two megabytes and preferably higher.
Q. How Do I Submit a Press Release—and What Should I Include?
A. If you or someone in your organization can write a press release, and it is well written and relevant to our readers (Refer to the section on pitch and relevance), you are almost assured that we will post it online. We do ask that press releases are typo-free and follow AP style.
Photos should accompany submissions and be bright, colorful and high resolution. Ideally, the release should also include at least one quote from a patron, friend or subject authority.
Although it isn’t officially required, you may also want to follow the standard editorial format for press releases. There are plenty of examples you can google online to give you an idea of how to write and format one, or you can read “Press Releases” for more tips.
Also be sure to include contact information in your release in case we have questions or are considering whether to cover your event or include your cause or business in a story.
Thank you for reading Prince William Living and for wanting to make your story or topic a part of our publication. Prince William Living is YOUR community magazine, and we appreciate and encourage readers’ and local businesses’ involvement in its continued growth as the lifestyle information resource in Prince William.
Prince William Living