The oldest and most reliable way to reach the media is through a news release. The news release is sometimes called a media release
but never a press release (at least not anymore!). The term press release was used when releases were printed only in newspapers and before radio, television and now the internet became popular communication channels. The news release is generally the most reliable type of media communication since it forms the basis of many, if not most, news stories. Media releases are constructed in a specific way.
In some cases, especially in the case of weekly newspapers, a well written news release will be printed verbatim. In the right circumstances, the news release is met with appreciation by reporters. In the wrong circumstances or if the news release does not have an interesting subject line and first sentence (called the lead), or is not formatted in a specific, standardized, easy-to read way, the news release is more often than not, never gets opened, let alone read by the reporters you send it to.
This article will explain ways to put together a media release that will more likely get read and result in valuable media coverage. Despite the popularity of social media, most people are more likely to rely upon things they read in newspapers and magazines, heard on the radio or saw on television before they would rely upon news they learned from Facebook, Twitter or social media networks, outside of news posted or endorsed by their trusted circle of family, friends, colleagues and service providers.
Craft your media releases to read like news articles. News articles in newspapers or lead-ins from a news show host include the five Ws and the H in their first paragraph. This is called the lead. These basic elements are:
- What happened/who is involved
- Who did itor will do it
- Why it happened or why it will happen
- Where it happened or will happen
- When it happened or when it wil happen
- How it happened or how it will happen
Sometimes the "how it will happen" is the most important aaspect of the news story, so you will want to highlight this information. Other times, its might be any of the answers to the other questions. In any case, the media release needs to more or less answer these six quetions in sentence or two, at the beginning of the release. If the subject line or headline of the release and these first two sentences appeal to the reporter and match their area of interest, he or she might read on. If not, not a chance.
Basic Elements of a NonProfit Press Release:
- The type of media communication in a headl ine at the top e.g. MEDIA RELEASE, MEDIA ADVISORY or PSA
Indicate if it's a media advisory such as you would send out to announce a press conference, a media release (a general newsworthy announcement), or a public service announcement (an announcement from a nonprofit organization tightly written that can be read verbatim by a news announcer in 30 seconds or less).
- The type of media communication at the top, e.g. Media Release
- The date and the city from which the release is distributed e.g. Calgary, June 15, 2013.
You'll see this information typically italicized in order to have it stand out from the rest of the text.
- The Headline or the Subject Lline if you're sending the release, advisory or PSA by email
Many people consider the headline the most important aspect of the release. There is an art to writing good headlines. Every word has to count and intice the reporter to read on. The headline should be no more than 60 characters and the shorter, the better. Check out the newpapers and magazine racks. Review the Twitter account of the reporters you plan on sending your release. Use similarwording and headlines.
- Organizational Contact information
o Name of Organization
o Phone Number
o Website URL
- Contact information for personnel media could contact for more information
o Name (can be a person's name or a generic place such as "the Public Affairs Department")
o Email address of person or department
o Phone Number (include office phone and cell phone numbers)
- Format your release in
--Place, day, date (starts the first line of release)
--Headline and, if appropriate, sub-headline
--Body of release (no more than two or three short paragraphs)
--Boilerplate information about the nonprofit organization
--Repeat contact information and/or offer to provide someone to interview.
-- ### (These marks are centered just below the content of the release and signal the end of the release)
- Address and send releases to the appropriate reporters
If it's a general news story, address and send it to the City Editor at daily newspapers, the Editor at weekly newspapers, and the Assignment Editor at tv and the News Announcer at radio stations. Do not blast our releases indiscriminately. You'll be more likely to get media coverage if you send your releases only to the reporters most likely to be interested in your news. Otherwise, you'll be considered a spammer.
Sample Nonprofit Press Release Outline:
Attention: City Editor
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact Person Organization Name Voice Phone Number Email Address Website URL
[City], [Province], [Date] - The first paragraph. Begin your press release with a two sentence paragraph that provides a quick overview of the news why it is important. It should read easily and make your news sound exciting to a general audience.
Next, provide some background information on the program or event. Make sure to write your release in terms that your target audience, and the general public will understand.
Your text should explain the purpose of your event and intrigue the reader to find out more, visit your website, contact you for more information.
The final paragraph should be a brief description of your organization. Include a summary of other events or happenings and a brief history of the company. Also include "For more information, contact:" as the last sentence.
(Indicates Media Release is finished)
Media releases are the bread-and-butter of the media relations business. Even if you choose a different approach to contact the media, such as a news conference, it will still likely involve writing a media release. Within 24 hours of sending out your release, follow up by phone or by email with the top ten reporters on your media list to provide them with more details on your news announcement.
For more information on writing media releases see the Community Toolbox.
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