University Communications produces several high-visibility online products used to communicate with the campus community, the news media and other audiences.
We welcome submissions from campus units for distribution to general and specialized audiences via our products, including Inside UW–Madison, The Weekly, Working at UW, our news website, and the UW–Madison home page.
To help streamline collecting and distributing your news, please read the following guidelines.
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Who are your audiences?
We produce stories for both internal and external audiences.
Our internal audience is all of campus. Our newsletters reach the 60,000-plus strong campus community every week. The all-campus newsletter Inside UW is sent to all faculty and staff twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays during the academic year and once a week during the summer. Working at UW is sent to all employees once a week on Wednesdays. The student-centered newsletter The Weekly is sent to students once a week on Wednesdays. Some stories run in both Inside UW and The Weekly, but many stories are best for one outlet or the other. Our stories also feature on the campus news site and on the homepage.
Our external audiences include the general public and the media. Reporters and members of the public sign up to receive campus news in various categories including student life, academic programs, and scientific research. Our releases are divided into two categories, those of broad interest nationally or those focused on the state and local regions. You can sign up to receive these releases.
We also reach reporters through embargo websites like EurekAlert and Newswise, which provide opportunities for sharing research news ahead of publication within journal guidelines. Through our Meltwater account, we can send targeted releases to journalists who cover particular subjects.
Our flagship social media accounts reach a broad audience both on and off campus. Our accounts include Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
When contacting us with a story idea, take a moment to think about your target audience and communicate your goals with us so we can select the best channels for distribution.
I have written a story and would like to contribute it through your channels.
If your school or college, department or program has its own communicator on staff, please contact him or her first. Most of them have established working relationships with University Communications and should be your initial point of contact when you have news to share. Plus, they’ll likely want to distribute your story through their channels as well.
If those channels aren’t available, you can share your story directly with us in two ways. You can email it to firstname.lastname@example.org or you can select a particular staff member who will be able to usher your story through our process based on their expertise. Give us a brief synopsis of the story and tell us which audiences you would like to reach. Attach your story to the email or include a link to the story if it is already published on your website.
Once we have your story, you can expect to hear promptly from one of us. If we are unable to use your story, we will let you know and provide guidance on what we need in future stories to run them in our channels. If we are able to use your story, you can expect it to be edited to conform to our style and needs in collaboration with you.
Advance lead times are essential for getting your story out on time. Due to editing time, stories should be submitted two weeks before the issue of the newsletter you would like it to run in. For stories that must be submitted later — such as those that document an event happening shortly before publication — contact us well in advance so we can hold space in the newsletter and communicate our needs and expectations about the story.
I have an idea for a story that I would like you to produce.
If your school or college, department or program has its own communicator on staff, please contact him or her before you reach out to us or at the same time. Most of them have established working relationships with University Communications and should be your initial point of contact when you have news or story ideas to share. Plus, they’ll likely want to distribute your story through their channels as well.
We love tips about good stories! You can email your story idea to email@example.com or you can select a particular staff member based on their expertise who you think could produce the story. Share a brief synopsis of the story, the key characters, and any relevant timelines and tell us which audiences you would like to reach.
Stories take time for us to produce, so long lead times are essential. We’ll get back to you promptly.
My story has a visual component. Can I request photography or videography? Can I submit photos or videos?
Multimedia is a great way to enhance many stories. When sharing your story idea with us, let us know about your interest in photography or videography, and we will share your request with our Visuals team. Our multimedia resources are limited. Advance notice increases the chances that we’ll be able to provide these services.
We will consider submitted high-resolution, publication-quality photographs, such as headshots, candids portraying the activity the story is about, and scientific images if the content is clear enough to be explained in a brief caption. Please include a caption and credit information for each submitted photo.
We are unlikely to use staged photos of people shaking hands, presenting plaques, breaking ground, etc. Poorly composed, focused or lit photos cannot be used.
We will also consider high-quality video submissions. Due to requests from media for more videos, we are particularly interested in videos prepared during research that demonstrate visual elements of the research and/or help explain complex topics. For an example, see this story.
What makes for a good story?
To help us promote your project or activity, look for these news elements as a way to strengthen your story idea:
- Uniqueness: Are you doing something that hasn’t been done before? What is the fresh twist?
- Utility: Will your information be particularly useful in some way to a general or specialized audience?
- Human interest: Are there any appealing individuals with whom the audience can identify?
We especially value stories about how the research and teaching happening here are of direct benefit to society. If you know about a project or program that enhances quality of life, stimulates the economy, improves health care or education, or otherwise positively influences the world in tangible ways, we want to hear about it.
How can I write an attention-getting news release?
- Avoid overstatement and cliché. Don’t claim to be the first, the only or the unique unless you can prove it. Avoid claims of breakthroughs or cures in research stories.
- Avoid contrived quotes that merely get someone’s name in the copy.
- Proofread prior to submission. Spelling or grammar mistakes undermine credibility.
University Communications can help you judge the newsworthiness of your item and help you refine a release to maximize media attention.
What format works best?
We prefer to receive submissions as Word documents attached to an email message. If your news is or will be posted on your own website, please email us the link. Sometimes, we will link to your site from the home page, news page or Inside UW rather than reposting your story on our sites. If you are not asking for a media distribution but would like your news considered for web posting, just sending the link is sufficient.
How long should my story be?
Think “less is more.” In other words, keep it short. We reserve the right to edit items for length if they are more than about 500-600 words. We may return lengthy items to you to condense.
In what style should my story be written?
In preparing a submission, write clearly, addressing who, what, where, why and when in the first two paragraphs. Identify yourself, your department or unit, and include the name, daytime phone number and email (if available) of someone we can contact if we have questions about the item. Date the item and indicate whether the material is for immediate use or for release at a later date.
Submissions are rarely used exactly as written. Items may be edited for length, clarity, and to conform with journalistic style. If your submission is laden with technical jargon that only an expert would understand, it may be returned to you for revision.
Lastly, if you want to write a longer feature article for publication in Inside UW or one of our other products, it’s best to discuss the idea with University Communications staff first.
What are the most common mistakes in submitted items?
Several mistakes can delay or prevent publication:
- Submitting an item too late for publication deadlines.
- A story that is too long and/or not written in a news style. If a story requires excessive editing, it may be rejected.
- Providing insufficient or inaccurate information, especially for addresses, spellings and job titles.
- Omitting the name and phone number of a contact who can answer questions.
When is the deadline to submit?
Two weeks lead time is appreciated, but we recognize the need to sometimes publish important items on short notice. Let us know if there is a specific date by which your news must be posted, and please allow plenty of time before then for us to edit, format and schedule your story.
What stories are unlikely to be accepted?
We have limited space and try to curate stories of broad interest to our campus or external audiences. That means that we are less likely to publish certain kinds of stories.
Events, grant announcements, and field-specific awards rarely appeal to a broad audience and are discouraged. Stories that focus on the work that is being done as a result of a grant are of greater interest and will be considered. Major grant announcements, such as for new centers or initiatives, and nationally or internationally recognized awards that are not field-specific will also be considered.
Are there other ways to get my content out?
Yes. Inside UW and The Weekly provide advertising space to campus partners for reasonable rates. This is a particularly good option for promoting events, which we rarely feature in full-length stories.
Who can answer other questions?
- Caitlin Henning can address questions about Inside UW and the editing, distribution and posting of news releases and feature stories.
- Mike Klein, 262-3846, can address questions about The Weekly and the editing, distribution and posting of news releases and feature stories.
- Dean Robbins, 890-2982, is co-editor of On Wisconsin Magazine. Contact him about story ideas specifically appealing to UW–Madison alumni.