Wisconsin Historical Society

Guide or Instruction

How to Attract Good Publicity for Historic Preservation by Thinking Like a Journalist

Think Like a Journalist to Attract Publicity | Historic Preservation | Wisconsin Historical Society

To attract good publicity for your historic preservation advocacy group, campaign, or cause, you need to think like a journalist. All communications from your group — newsletters, website content, letters, press releases, email blasts — need to be written with the press in mind.

Look for Stories to Tell

Reporters are always looking for good stories. And as a preservation advocate, you should always be looking for stories to share with the press. Preservation is very much about people, and many reporters are looking for human-interest stories that inspire others. This is the kind of story most people want to read, too.

Reporters look for stories with immediate appeal, such as events that are about to happen, or stories that help their readers understand a current event with a new perspective. As you sort through the problems and goals of your mission, think about the "heroes" in your process — the key players who are doing good works and interesting things for your community. These people have a story that others want to know about.

You might also find interesting and surprising stories while you are researching a historic building or site. You can build interest in an endangered property by sharing these stories and historic photographs with the press. This kind of story wouldn't be appropriate for a press release, but it is the type of story you could share with a regular contact on your press list. Your message could be as simple as an email that says, "Thought you'd find this interesting." Include a scan of an old newspaper piece and a historic photo.

Write Like a Journalist

If you want good press, you also need to write like a journalist. Journalists yawn at stiff statements of predictably positive messages. For example, imagine how a reporter would react to this phrase in your press release:

We were delighted to see the courthouse saved.

Yawn! Of course your preservation advocacy group is delighted to save an old building. Now consider this statement:

When lightning struck and we were faced with losing our courthouse, we realized we'd be losing the heart of downtown. Without it, our downtown would have died.

Bingo! The second statement tells a reporter that you have a story to tell. Metaphors and analogies can be helpful to tell your story, and they often get quoted.

Learn More

Find more how-to articles about historic preservation advocacy.