Press is essential. Like social media, it is the most efficient way to spread the word about your fundraiser. When we say press, we don't mean hanging up flyers around your school. We mean newspaper articles, blogs, news stories, and radio spotlights.

Getting press for your fundraiser can be easier to do than you may have thought, but only if you prepare and know what steps to take. Using press, in addition to spreading the word with your friends and family, can make a huge difference in the amount of money you raise. We've compiled a list of advice and tips on how you can get the right kind of press.

1) Know Your Best Strength
Before deciding on what media outlet you want to pursue, you have to first know what type of media is best for you. Are you more comfortable writing than speaking? Would you rather have a speech planned out or respond to questions as they come? Are you shy on camera?

There's no use in getting an on-air news interview if you're not comfortable being on camera, even if your fundraiser is simple and easy to explain; if you can't think on your toes, radio may not be an option for you; if writing isn't your thing, skip blogs or newspapers. Once you decide what you're most comfortable doing, you can move on to the next step.

2) Research
You can't contact a newspaper or radio station if you don't know their information! You also can't contact a news outlet and expect to get a response the next day. In order to keep your research organized, create separate documents or sections for radio, newspapers, blogs, and TV stations.

For each category, search online for local or small community stations and write down their contact info. Also, make a note of any themes or major topics the station or publication covers; it will help you decide whether or not it's a good fit for your fundraiser.

Local stations and publications are likely to be the most interested in sharing your story since you are a part of the community. They will also be more likely to respond quickly and make time for you.

3) Create a Press Release
Yes, I know; there are a lot of steps involved before even contacting the media! However, all of these steps will help ensure that you get a positive response.

When contacting a media outlet, you can't call or email with, "Hey, I've got a fundraiser. Can I promote it?" The people who work in media and press are very busy and if they see a message without detailed information, they're likely to ignore it and not respond. Instead, impress them with a professional press release that includes all the details of your fundraiser.

Don't worry if you've never written a press release before. You can find a lot of how-to guides and examples online, like this one from WikiHow.

Reminders:
  • Find a way to make your story 'news' by tying it into your team's journey to a championship, or by setting a goal to the largest fundraiser in your school's history. Finding an interesting take, or 'spin', will help catch a reporter's eye and the reader's curiosity!

  • Always  double check to make sure all of your contact information is in the press release!

  • Always include the 5 Ws: who, what, when, where, and why.

  • If you're working with a local business, don't forget to mention them


4) Making Contact
Now that you've done your research and you have your contact list and press release ready, it's finally time to make the call or send the email!

If you contact someone via email, start your email with a basic, but formal introduction. You can either include the press release as an attachment, but you should always include the text in the body of the email as well (reporters may be wary about opening attachments).

If you contact someone over the phone, have a short pitch ready. It's best to have it written down so you don't forget anything. In your pitch, briefly describe your fundraiser, what it's for, how long it lasts, and, most importantly, why you'd like to publicize it through that specific publication or station.

Your reason doesn't have to be complicated. It can be as simple as saying, "I really enjoy the way you share news and I think your readers/viewers/listeners would enjoy learning about my fundraiser and how it helps us raise funds for our cheer squad."

Don't forget to ask if you can fax or email your press release to them.

5) Getting a Response
What happens if someone doesn't respond back? Due to busy schedules, someone may honestly forget to return your call or email. If you don't receive a response, or if it's been a week after someone told you they'd respond within a few days, politely follow up with the person. In a brief message, readdress your fundraiser and ask if they've had the time to review the materials. Always include your contact details again and inform them they can contact you if they have any questions.

If someone says they're not interested, politely thank them for their time. If someone doesn't respond after a second follow up message, assume the answer is a "˜no.'

6) The Big Day
The time has come for you to promote your fundraiser! Whether you're doing a radio, newspaper, or on-camera promotion, dress properly. Wear your team warm-ups or your cheerleading uniform! Have an organized document with all the information about your fundraiser. Be prepared for questions about what the fundraiser is, what it benefits, how long it runs, how much the fundraiser costs, and any other details. The more you practice and prepare what you're going to say, the better!

Getting press to promote your fundraiser is one of the greatest ways to get your whole community involved. As long as you do your research and prepare, you'll have the tools to seal the deal and raise money for your cheer squad.
Have you ever used press to promote your fundraiser? How do you spread the word?