Deej Sullivan: How to make a cannabis story Newsworthy (or how to write a press release)

Club News

As the campaign to legalise cannabis use gains more and more attention in the mainstream media it is vital that we as local clubs don’t forget about the little guys – the local papers and radio stations.

Even if most of them are owned by much larger news groups they offer a crucial link to everyday people who might just skip over a cannabis story in, say, the Daily Mail, and they are often more likely to print positive stories especially if they have a local angle.

However without input from groups such as ours these publications will naturally be more inclined to stick with the status quo; it is up to us to show them that there are thousands of people all over the country who don’t believe that cannabis use should be illegal, and who will read their papers and share the stories online if they are willing to give us a voice in the media.

As an admin for your local club you should be checking the local news daily for cannabis related stories which you can comment on. If you see reporting you don’t like, let the paper know. But don’t just leave a comment on their website where it will be ignored – find out the email address of the editor or news desk and write a few paragraphs outlining your objections.

For example, there was a story in a Devon newspaper recently about a man who was arrested and charged over 9p worth of cannabis. After emailing the paper in question, and a few others, the paper in question then published a story from our point of view with the headline ‘Devon Cannabis Club condemns court case where man had just 9p worth of cannabis’.

Deej’s Advice

The key to writing a useful press release is to keep it short and sweet, something that in my experience is often far easier said than done. Keep yours between 300-400 words and you should be fine.

It is also important to do everything you can to make sure the journalist you are sending it to actually opens the thing in the first place. In the email header make sure you include the words ‘Press Release’. It sounds ridiculously simple but it works. Don’t just use these words though – let the journalist in question know exactly what it is you’re emailing them about in as concise and clear a way as possible.

After agonising for hours over the perfect subject line* and convincing said journalist to open your email, your next challenge is to make sure he or she reads on. The opening line of your press release should read like the first line of a news story and basically be a summary of the story, in around 15-20 words.

If it is your first time contacting a particular newspaper you may want to include some information about your club – but again, keep it brief. You can always add a ‘notes to editors’ section at the end if needs be, and once you’ve built up a relationship with a journalist or newspaper this information will just be taking up valuable space.

Finally – don’t give up! If you don’t get much response at first don’t panic and throw in the towel; keep at it. You’ll get better with time, plus if you’re sending press releases regularly enough then you can only be ignored for so long. Once you make a breakthrough the relationships you forge with papers can be extremely useful, for example in Devon we now get asked for comment on drug related stories sometimes before we’ve even sent a press release.

I really can’t emphasise enough how important I believe this to be. Without getting our opinions out there in the media we are simply preaching to the converted on social media. Which is fun and all, but it won’t progress the cause.

So good luck, and if you need any help or further advice feel free to contact me on Facebook or Twitter – or @sullivandeej on Twitter. Oh yeah. I just started my own blog too…


*don’t actually do that, it’ll drive you mad.

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