Did one of your Scouts just finish an Eagle Scout service project that made you feel really proud? Did your pack just have the best fall kick-off meeting ever? You deserve to be proud, so let the world know! The best packs and troops understand the importance of publicizing their good deeds to the community. As I’ve written before, a dedicated committee position for publicity is the best way to get this done, but almost anybody can quickly create articles with a high chance of being published.
What makes an article readable? What do editors of local newspapers and websites look for? In a word, make their job simple. By following the secrets below, you’ll draft a press release that is print-ready and will require minimal work on the part of editors. Who doesn’t love it when others make their job easier?
Here are the secrets:
Start with the basics. Yes, the old adage about starting every article with a sentence or two that explains the who, what, when, where, and why still reigns as the most important rule. Look at online versions of major newspapers, and you’ll see their summary sub-headlines are listed on the front page and allow readers to get the major point even before they open the article.
Use lots of names and quotes. People love to see their name in print, and editors know that more names means more reader interest. It’s also a great no-cost way to recognize volunteers. Break up the text with quotes. Instead of writing four narrative paragraphs about the Pinewood Derby, include one quote from a leader. For example, instead of explaining the purpose of the Pinewood Derby, quote Scoutmaster Jones as saying, “We love the annual Pinewood Derby because it teaches boys the importance of creativity, planning. It gives them hands-on skills and ends with a sense of accomplishment and friendly competition.” Readers enjoy getting the same information from a quote. Don’t hesitate to write the quote yourself and email it to the leader to get his permission to attribute the quote to him.
Readers also love quirky quotes from kids, which are a great way to end an article and make your group seem fun. What reader wouldn’t get a smile from reading, “Tiger Cub Timothy summed up the event by exclaiming, ‘The pinewood derby was even more fun than Disneyland!’”
Pictures of cute kids in uniform grab the eye. Posed photos are fine, but action shots are better, especially if you can get up close and catch a boy smiling or expressing a sense of excitement or awe. It doesn’t matter whether the subject won first place at the Camporee or just tied his first square knot. People love seeing faces of happy kids. Naturally, always get parents’ permission before publishing a photo or the name of a child.
Keep paragraphs short. Two or three sentences is usually enough to get a point across. Paragraphs visually create sections in an article that readers can decide whether they want to continue consuming. Most will read a much longer article if it is broken into short paragraphs.
Keep your writing at a fifth grade level. No matter how sophisticated your writing style, remember your audience will have mixed reading ability in a community publication. Sentences that are too long or use advanced vocabulary may turn off both readers and editors.
Double check punctuation, spelling and grammar. Editors are relieved when they get written content that’s free of errors and ready to put in print. Use the tools that come in your word processing software, or have a friend or loved one proofread your article before sending it in.
End with info on how to join your unit. You’ll be surprised how many people will forward articles about your unit to friends and family who are interested in Scouts. We always finish with “Pack 35 meets the last Tuesday of each month in Tankersley Hall at Laguna Presbyterian Church, 415 Forest Avenue, Laguna Beach, CA. For more information or to join, see pack35lagunabeach.org.”
I’ve written dozens of articles for community newspapers for Scout groups over the years, and I hope you’ll have the same success getting them published by following these simple rules for creating a press release.
Now get out there, and start publishing!