Have you got a story Idea?

The Communications Office gets its best story ideas from faculty members who contact us with great information from their labs and classrooms. If you have a story idea that you think deserves a bigger audience, call 403-329-2710 to speak with Trevor Kenney (News & Information Manager) or 403-394-3975 to speak with Caroline Zentner (Public Affairs Advisor). Before you do, here is some information that may help you help us tell the story properly.

Timing is everything

First, give us a headstart: A good rule of thumb for most stories is two weeks before you’d like to see a story online, in print or going to the media in the form of a news release. For event promotion, more lead time is better, giving us time to help you get inclusion in print media calendars, newsletters and other outlets where significant advance warning is helpful.

Items for UWeekly, the University’s weekly faculty/staff e-news blast, should be submitted no later than Friday at noon for the following Monday edition. News for UNews, the U of L daily online news source, should be submitted at least the day before you would like the content to appear.

The essentials

Having the following elements in hand prior to your first contact with our office is helpful (news folk like to call them the “Five Ws”):

  • Who is the central person/persons involved in your story? Background information on main participants, speakers, researchers, etc., is always helpful.
  • What is the story? Are you publishing a research paper in a journal? Launching a new service project? Getting a big award? Details, please!
  • When is all of this happening? Specifics are critical – “approximate times” won’t do.
  • Where is this taking place? If your news item isn’t tied to a location, no problem, but if it is, street addresses that allow individuals to map your location via Google or other search engines are important.
  • Why should anyone care? Thousands of story ideas cross reporters’ and editors’ desks each day. What makes your story special or of potential interest to a general audience? We can often help you think this through and isolate angles or elements that are helpful in promoting a story.

Photos, video, social media & more

Elements that help illustrate your story can be critical in helping persuade reporters to cover it or in enhancing its interest to your target audience. With ever-expanding ways to use those elements on the Web, making sure you have such material in hand can be a ticket to widespread exposure and engagement.

Think broadly about what might work. Images don’t have to be professionally shot to be of use. Media commonly use cell phone video, book jacket covers, microscope snapshots of interesting scientific phenomena and more to illustrate stories. If you’re unsure, let us help you make a determination about what might work.

Give us time to work with your elements or help produce illustration pieces. We often need to alter photos or video that we haven’t produced ourselves to provide them to media in formats that work for them. We also may need time to get them loaded for use on any number of our U of L social media sites, including:

Thousands of individuals interested in the U of L visit these and other sites daily. Appropriately used, social media can be invaluable in promoting your story or event.

Target audiences

Help us get your news in front of the right people by thinking through who you most need to get your news. Is there a particular city, news outlet or demographic that is critical for your purposes? Does a donor want to be recognized in his/her hometown paper? Should your new research publication be noted in a particular academic newsletter?

Share any thoughts along these lines with us. Even if you don’t have much information on any given news outlet, we have software that allows us to find, among other things, contact essentials for all Canadian media, including individual e-mail addresses and phone numbers for newsroom staff.

Tracking coverage

If your story idea turns into media coverage, we can help you track stories and generate coverage reports representing the totality of media exposure. Such reports have been of significant importance for faculty researchers as they document impact of their work for funding agencies. The Government Relations Officer at the U of L also uses them to help illustrate value of public investments in the University of Lethbridge.