I invited Mick Caruso, our talented page designer, community-event press-release wrangler and all-around good guy into my office yesterday morning to talk about how we might make his life a little easier as the school and social season get underway this month and new publicity chairmen are assigned to tout their many activities in the Valley Sun.
If you have never met Mick, please take my word that he is normally a soft-spoken, good-humored and very patient sort of fellow.
So I was bemused when Mick's eyes nearly popped out of his head and his face turned red when I asked him if he had any advice he'd like me to pass on in this space regarding how best to publicize your La Cañada organization. He used polite words, but I could hear the frustration in his voice.
Mick swears that at least half of the press releases we receive are missing key information. In those cases he's forced to track down the sender and beg for something that should have been given to us in the first place.
"It's unbelievable. What ever happened to the rule that everyone include the who, what, when and where [of an event]?" he practically shouted at me.
I feel his pain because we split the duties of trying to sort through all the press releases that come our way, deciding which ones might lead to bylined articles by our reporters and which are better suited to calendar items.
Cheer up, volunteers — you are in good company. Mick and I have both noticed that paid professionals who send us releases often omit key information too. And worse, there are a few of those pros who also send us four-page descriptions of a single upcoming event, complete with biographies of all participants. We don't need that much. Really.
We do need the name of the organization, what event is planned, where and when it will be held. If you're providing us with a press release after an event has taken place, still include all that same information, plus, if you have them, the names of La Cañada residents who participated. And please confirm that you have given us the correct spelling of all names. We also want your phone number and/or the names and numbers of other key people to contact in case we have a question.
To submit a release, please e-mail the text to email@example.com and send any photos to accompany it to firstname.lastname@example.org, with complete caption information that identifies all people shown, from left to right. Both the text and photo e-mails should have matching subject lines.
For example, let's say the Assistance League of Flintridge publicity chairman wanted to send us a press release about the Bargain Box thrift shop the organization operates. (I keep waiting for one of those to come, by the way, dear women of the League). The text, either attached as a Word document or just printed in the body of the e-mail, would talk about this wonderful thrift shop that's soon to open for the season. The subject line could say "Bargain Box reopens." The e-mail containing the photo (as an attached jpeg that's 4x6 in size and 200 resolution, please) would then carry the subject line: "Bargain Box reopens, photo."
If you don't use e-mail, that's OK. We'll take walk-ins to our office, 727 Foothill Blvd., La Cañada.
There is the matter of timing to consider, too. Our deadline for submittals is noon the Friday before you hope to see something in print. Please keep in mind that if your event will take place on a Thursday night, we should be publicizing that a week ahead of time, not the very day of the big occasion. So in those cases you should get those releases in our hands two weeks in advance of the event.
If you have any questions, let us know. I think we can all agree your publicity job should be as easy as possible — for all concerned.
CAROL CORMACI is managing editor of the Valley Sun. She can be reached at email@example.com.