Myth Information: Why Newspapers are more important than ever in the 2014 Elections

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If you think in this age of “new media” that newspapers are not important to winning elections … think again. Today, no medium has a higher correlation with voters than newspapers. In fact, newspapers provide much of the “news” content on the internet. In little more than a decade, political newspaper advertising has skyrocketed from a low of only $50 million in 2002 to over $700 million in 2012 … surpassing radio in gross political sales.   Perhaps that’s why more and more political media buyers are using newspapers. Here are some solid reasons why.

Readers Voters. Voter Read. 

Surveys of voters consistently tell the same story … Readers Voters. Voter Read.  It’s that simple. A national survey by McLaughlin and Associates in January of this year is a good example.  It found that:

  • 92% of all registered voters read a newspaper either in print of online at least once a week.

  • 64% read a newspaper daily or several times a week.

  • Of likely voters the number is also 92% read a newspaper either in print of online at least once a week.

  • Only 5.9% of likely voters “never” read a newspaper.

  • And reading a newspaper is one of the few things on which Republicans, Democrats and Independents, men and women can agree. 93% of Republicans; 93% of Democrats and 90% of Independents; 91% of men and 87% of women are regular newspapers readers.  Compare that to the 60% of Americans who have never sent a text message or used Facebook and it’s even more impressive.

So voters read but readers also vote….

In the last presidential election, 9 out of 10 newspaper readers cast a ballot.  In the 2012 mid-term elections, when voting is typically much lighter, newspaper readers still delivered the vote, with more than 8 out of 10 newspaper readers going to the polls.

So there you have it, both sides of the coin that could flip your campaign into the winning column.

Newspapers Reach Crucial Undecided Voters

The conventional wisdom among consultants is that only 10-15% of the electorate is typically up for grabs in any given campaign.  In reality, that number is often much higher.  That’s because while only 10-15% of voters may be truly “undecided,” many more are far from certain about their vote.  Among those who say they experience some indecision, three out of four are regular newspaper readers.  Newspapers can put your message in the hands of this crucial constituency.

Voters consistently look to newspapers to help make up their minds about how they’ll vote.  While the perceived usefulness of other media rises and falls as the campaign progresses, newspapers maintain their strength for influencing voter opinion.

Newspapers Are Targetable In Both Print And Online Versions.

Everyone knows the endless options for targeting online advertising.  Newspapers are no exception.  But do you know why many “direct mail” consultants are turning to newspapers to replace the weakest link in their business, the post office? They’re turning to newspapers because they can deliver your message right to the doorsteps of the critical voters you need to reach.  Most major metropolitan newspapers have established sections based on geographic zones and can target a pre-printed flier or brochure for insertion and delivery within a specific zip code.  Many can even target delivery down to the census tract, block, or even house by house.  Your message can be delivered in a flyer or brochure, on a “Post-it” note placed on the front page, or even on the very poly/delivery bag in which the newspaper arrives.  Poly/delivery bags are especially useful for getting out the vote on Election Day. And… many newspapers offer digital geo-targeting by congressional district so messages can be delivered only to those who can vote for a particular candidate.

Hispanic Voters Prefer Newspapers For Political News

In a major new survey taken among registered voters in California and Texas who self-identify as Hispanic, newspapers (either print or online versions), ranked second only to television as the preferred method of receiving campaign information.

The “Hispanic/Latino Voter Survey,” which was commissioned by Univision Communications, parent company of Spanish language Univision television found that while no single media source reaches all Hispanic voters, newspapers were a strong second to television among this emerging and powerful voting bloc. Newspapers were preferred over radio, phone calls and even social networking sites like Facebook. Over half the respondents in Texas said newspapers were their preferred method of receiving candidate information and nearly a third in California also preferred newspapers. 

Nationally, in the January 2014 McLaughlin survey, an impressive 88% of self-identified Hispanics described themselves as regular newspaper readers.

All Politics Is Local … The Medium Is Still The Message.

Voters know newspapers are the place to go to find out what’s going on in their communities.  They know that unlike television or radio news programs, newspapers cover local issues every day of the week.  They know their local paper will provide real, in-depth coverage of the local issues most important to them ...  the same issues that often determine how they’ll vote on Election Day. 

Newspapers Are Credible

Nobody reads a newspaper to escape from reality as is often the case with television and radio.  Voters look to newspapers for the information they need to make up their minds about candidates and issues.  Newspapers rank second only to television among voters when it comes to providing the most helpful information about state and local elections. Newspaper advertising gives campaigns an aura of credibility and respectability that’s unmatched by other mediums.

 It’s Easy to Advertise In Newspapers 

 Placing political ads in newspapers has never been easier.  Typically the media buy can be completed with a single order and check.  Nearly every state has its own press association that can help with all of your planning and buying needs for state-wide races.  And most associations have their own trained political sales staff for print or digital.

Individual papers have made buying even easier with programs that offer the full portfolio of products from print, to online, mobile, inserts and other products – all in easy-to-understand packages.

The bottom line is that when it comes to reaching voters, newspapers continue to deliver.

Meet More Journalists Online

Psssst! Want to meet more journalists online?
Follow these steps to create a journalist-friendly website

By Edward Zuckerman, Government Policy Newslinks

Modern technology notwithstanding, I sometimes wax nostalgic for the old days when teletype machines clacked out stories one keystroke at a time, and bells rang when an urgent bulletin announced a catastrophe in some faraway land.

There are no bells in today’s newsrooms (and no Underwood typewriters, either, unless they’re enshrined in a display case).

Nowadays, news is transmitted in muted silence at electronic speed. At any given nanosecond, hundreds of press releases are posted on any of millions of Internet websites, put there with the belief they will be found by members of the press. Too often, though, the delivery can’t be completed because the website is not designed to welcome the arrival of a journalist.

Can I be describing your organization’s website? Take this simple test: Invite a coworker, someone who doesn’t share your familiarity with your website, to find your latest press release. Count the seconds it takes to find a homepage button marked “media” or “press” or “news” (I’ll bet I’ve encountered at least 50 different names for this button) that opens to an index of your organization’s most recent press releases. Can’t find the button in less than 5 seconds? Don’t have an index page; or, worse, it takes more than 5 seconds for the index page to download? You are in dire need of help. Even if you pass this test, you may still have room for some improvements.

Here are a few important things to remember:

* The information age has a huge upside: you can email your press releases to as many thousands of news reporters whose email addresses you can find, without licking a single postage stamp or paying a single penny. But it also has a huge downside: on average, today’s journalist receives 500 or more emails every day, and they can—and do— mass delete them with a single keystroke.

* Getting a journalist’s attention is a zero-sum game based on the number of minutes (sometimes just seconds) that a journalist can devote to reading email and opening websites. The winners are the ones whose email is read, or whose websites are opened. And, the more time a journalist spends reading a particular email or opening a particular website, the greater the number of losers there will be when the allotted time runs out.

So the best advice I can offer is: Make it as easy as possible for reporters to find press releases on your website, don’t clutter your press release page with extraneous materials, and don’t ask them to fill out a registration form so they can receive your email alerts tofuture press releases. Just mark an easy-to-follow path to your press releases, and give them the name of a contact person in case they want to make further inquiries.

Now, let’s start at the top. Your homepage. Make sure it has a “media” or “newsroom” button that links directly to a second-level page that contains brief descriptions, release dates, and hyperlinks to your organization’s most recent press releases. That would be a single click from the homepage to the press release index page.

You’d be surprised at the number of websites that do not include this simple button on their homepage. Instead, there is an “about us” button on the homepage that opens to a second-level page that may or may not include a media/newsroom button. (I’ve encountered second-level “about us” pages that link to a third-level “resources” page that includes a fourth-level media/newsroom button. Think of it, you have to drill through a hierarchy of five levels to reach a press release: homepage> about us page> resources page> press release index> the press release.

Scale down the size of your press release index page. Some organizations list every press release since the dawn of the Internet, or at least back to the day they launched their website. Reporters aren’t really interested in a list of hundreds of press releases that lengthen the time needed to download the page. Your organization’s interest in preserving these old press releases can be served by transferring them into an archive folder. Just display a half dozen or so of your organization’s most recent press releases on the index page, and remember to arrange them in reverse chronological order (most recent on top) to assure it will display on the opening screen.

Keep your index page as simple as possible. That means no dancing or blinking headlines, or other byte-gulping design elements. Please, NO GRAPHICS of any kind. There are still some newsrooms out there that are operating on 56k dial-up modems. Even journalists with high-speed Internet connections want the quickest possible downloads.

Never categorize your press releases by topic. Reporters want to find your most current press release as quickly as possible. That should be the release at the top of the list. Do not force them to search through lists of press releases that are sorted according to their subject matter.

Never create folders for press releases that change every month. (The designer who thought this up probably never heard of bookmarks.) Any reporter who bookmarks your press release index page will be left in the lurch when the URL for this month’s page changes at the start of the next month. The journalist will keep accessing an old month’s list of press releases and wonder why your organization ended its practice of posting press releases on its website. If you must change the press release index to a different location, make sure you leave a forwarding address at the old page.

Include a release date on every press release, and with each entry on your index page. We’ve solved the problem of undated press releases very nicely at Government Policy Newslinks. We simply refuse to use them. The same policy applies to any press release that includes a copyright notice, or an author’s byline.

What’s our objection to copyright notices? Frankly, we don’t really know what the issuer of a press release expects to accomplish with a copyright notice. But it could include legal consequences, and we do not want to expose our registered users to legal action if they use a press release they found through Government Policy Newslinks.

Ditto with bylines. We don’t know if the material was authored by someone who might be expecting compensation if published or broadcast by a news organization. Again, we don’t want our registered users to use information from a press release they received through our service, then get dunned for payment.

Include the name, phone number and email address of your organization’s contact person who is authorized to respond to media inquiries. Never use a web-based form or a generic email address for press inquiries. Journalists don’t have any confidence that their on-deadline inquiries will get a timely response by typing their question into a form, or by emailing their inquiry to a generic address like This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Post your press release on your website FIRST! Don’t save it for the last thing to do before turning off the lights and heading for home. Once you start distributing a press release by phone, fax, mail, email, or courier, the word starts to get around. Journalists who are not on your distribution list will hear about it (possibly from a brief wire service story) and go to your website for more information.

Each press release should have its own separate document file. Do not add today’s press release to the same document that contains yesterday’s press release. In many newsrooms, editors review press releases and assign them to reporters, sometimes by forwarding them an email note with the URL,sometimes by making a paper copy. When making a copy, the last thing an editor wants to see is a stack of stale press releases spilling out of the printer.

Edward Zuckerman, the author of this article, is editor of Government Policy Newslinks which monitors press release activity on government and public policy websites for over 1,300 journalists and government/public affairs specialists. He welcomes your tips for making websites more friendly to journalists. His email address is: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. For more information, see

Make your Point

How to Make your Point
Create Sound Bites And Quotable Statements

Randall P. Whatley Cypress Media Group

Whether you are making a business presentation or communicating with the media, your most important objective should be to make your point clear and memorable.

The following are three simple and effective techniques to make your point clear and create sound bites and quotable statements:

Speaking well is not necessarily the same as writing well. When speaking, use the "verbal colon" to draw attention to your main point and create a sound bite.


You would write, "The important point I want to make is that despite the storm damage, we will open on schedule."

Using the verbal colon to draw attention to your important point, you would say, "The important point to remember is this: Despite the storm damage, we will open on schedule."

Other good verbal colon phrases include the following:

Consider this Remember this Case in point One final point Here's the proof The most interesting aspect is this The main point to remember is this The biggest mistake we can make is this

Make use of the "inserted question" to focus attention on your words. Anytime you use the word "because," when writing, insert the word "why" before it when speaking to draw attention to your main point and create a sound bite.


You would write, "We have added many safety features to our building plan because we do not want even one injury on this project."

Using the inserted question, you would focus attention on your statement by saying, "We have added many safety features to our building plan. Why? Because we do not want even one injury on this project."

Make your points in short sentences, preferably with six to ten words.


"We hope this solution solves the problem for good."

Copyright 2005, Randall P. Whatley

Randall P. Whatley is president of Cypress Media Group, Inc.,, an Atlanta-based advertising, public relations, political consulting, and training firm. He has been a media consultant for over 27 years. Cypress Media Group, Inc. is a consulting firm specializing in advertising, public relations, and training seminars primarily related to business and technical writing, presentation skills, and media relations. We also provide training, consulting, speakers, and instructional design services in many other are

How to Write Campaign Press Releases

How to Write Campaign Press Releases
By Peter G. Pollak,

Many campaigns start out enthusiastically issuing press releases left and right. When their releases don't always get picked up or they don't like the way the releases are used, some campaigns get into blaming the media and may stop issuing releases altogether.

Having a clear understanding of how the media works before you start issuing campaign press releases can help you garner more and better coverage during your campaign.

First, recognize that each media organization has decision makers whose job it is to decide what information to present based on their understanding of their unique audience. In other words, an FM music station may do news, but they know their audience isn't looking for in depth reporting on the local school board election; whereas a neighborhood weekly may see that as front-page material.

Editors read press releases to find out about potential stories. Each editor must then decide what stories to cover and how much space or airtime to a lot to each story.

As a campaign press person your job is to provide editors information they can use in whatever format makes their job easier….all in the interest of obtaining more and better coverage for your candidate.

Keep in mind that no media has unlimited space or time…and that you are competing with dozens or perhaps hundreds of possible stories.

Following a few rules will increase your success rate:

  1. Don't write the story for the media. Tell them what the story is and how they can cover it, such as where and when the event will take place or how to get a hold of the candidate for an interview. 2.    Keep your releases to one page. Offer to provide supporting documents, such as a position statement, but don't flood editors with paper. 3.    Don't send your releases to every person at each news outlet whose name or email you can discover. Sending multiple copies of the same release to dozens of people can backfire. 4.    Identify the decision makers at the media that are key for your campaign and develop a relationship with them. Get to know what issues they think are important in the election and feed them information on those issues. 5.    Don't call up the media to ask "Did you get my release?" or "Are you coming to our press conference?" Only make follow-up calls if you have something additional to offer. 6.    As much as possible, treat all media equally. Don't discount a reporter because she or he works for a weekly. 7.    If your fax list has more than 40 or 50 numbers, use a delivery service so that each outlet gets your releases at approximately the same time. 8.    Make sure the press can get a hold of someone from your campaign. Answer press calls promptly. 9.    Respond to events. If your opponent makes a statement you want to comment on, put out a release that says your candidate is available to respond…or include his/her response. 10.    Don't give up if you don't get the coverage you would like at the beginning of your campaign. Remember it's a marathon not a sprint.


Peter G. Pollak, is the founder and CEO of Empire Information Services, Inc., a press release delivery service based in Schenectady, NY.

Media Interview Questions

Media Interview Questions
by Randall P. Whatley, Cypress Media Group, Inc.

"How may I help you?"
Media relations practitioners often make fools of themselves by either begging a reporter for free publicity or trying to cajole a reporter into covering a story. Instead of using these ploys with a reporter, build a relationship with each reporter you speak to by simply asking him/her "How may I help you?"

Use the reporter's answer as you cue on how to continue the conversation and what to say next to sway the conversation to a point where you can make a pitch for your story.

The following phrases are other excellent conversation starters to use with reporters.

"Is now a good time to talk or is another time better?"
Demonstrate respect for the reporter's time by asking this question when you begin your conversation.

"When is your deadline?"
Asking this question accomplishes the following: It demonstrates your sensitivity to the reporter's on-going dilemma of meeting a story deadline. It also illustrates that you understand the news business. Additionally, it provides you with an indication of how much time you have to fill the reporter's request.

"What would you like for me to send you in advance of the interview?"
This considerate gesture helps both you and the reporter prepare for an interview and saves you both time.

"Would you like suggestions on other sources for your story?"
Reporters need multiple sources for a story. They usually want as many as possible. This is a helpful way to save a reporter time and potentially create a better story.

"Are you looking for any information that you are having trouble finding?"
By asking this question, you are again demonstrating empathy for the reporter's fact-finding challenge and ingratiating yourself with the offer to assist the reporter to do his/her job.

"Would you like suggestions for settings or photo ideas to accompany your story?"
Settings and photos are often something that reporters think about last and near their deadline. This means that they often use whatever is handy or easiest to use although better options might be available. If you provide this early in the story composition process, you have a greater chance for increased exposure in the story.

"What visual supports would you like for me to provide you that could accompany your story?"
The modern media has a constant need for all types of visual supports, especially those available electronically and free. If you can provide, maps, illustrations, photographs, charts, graphs, or video footage, you will not only ingratiate yourself to the press, but also increase your chances of being covered in a story.

"Would you like a list of our other clients or other areas of expertise that I possess that might assist you in the future?"
If you have asked the questions previously listed in this article, you have probably proven your worth to the reporter as an outstanding source. Most reporters would like to have more background information on you or your clients for future reference.

"Would you like the information that I have just provided you in writing?"
By asking this question, you are helping the reporter and yourself. You're helping the reporter by providing information that is already written and available as documentation for his/her editor. You are helping yourself by greatly improving your chances for both accurate and expanded quotes.

"Do you need additional documentation on any of the topics we discussed?"
If the reporter believes that he needs supporting documentation for his/her story, make sure that he/she views you as a willing source to provide this information.

"Do you have all of my contact information in case you think of something else you need at the last minute?"
Reporters like the idea that they can contact their sources anywhere/anytime. Make sure that your press contacts view you as one of accessible sources.

Copyright 2002, Randall P. Whatley