How to Evaluate a Media Release

How to Evaluate a Media ReleaseThe classic media release remains the most valuable promotional tool for nonprofit organizations. With the growth

of social media, if you postyour releases online, it's as likely your release will be read by someone searching online or visits your website as it will be read by newspaper reportesr, magazine editos, or a radio or television news producers. Writing a press release isn't particularly difficult, and it’s easy figure. Content should always respect the ABC's of good business communication: Authenticity, Brevity and Clarity.

Media releases should be informational, newsworthy and enthusiastic, and not over-hype your product, service, organization or event. They serve as a one page professional introduction between nonprofit organizations and news reporters (and supporters, potential supporters and volunteers if you post the release to an online newsroom.) Media releases should be informational, newsworthy and enthusiastic, and not over-hype your product, service, organization or event.

After you draft your media release evaluate it against these important questions:

1. Is your headline, the lead, the message clear and compelling?

This is what you care about and it's key to the success of your strategy

2. Is your headline, lead and our news angle sharp and irresistible?

This is what the editor cares about and it's what you need to make your story newsworthy

3. Are your 5 W's and key ideas organized effectively?

This is what the reader cares about...poor organization = unreadable copy

4. Do you use a convincing journalistic style?

Media release writing is journalism... you should read newspapers so news style comes to you naturally

5. Are the basics in place -- grammar, sentence and paragraph mechanics?

Poor grammar signals a lack of professionalism...


Best = 5

Adequate = 3

Poor = 1

Headline & lead


The message is clear and compelling. It's not simply informative, but charged with interest and a sense of importance that involves the reader. A great lead will make the reader say, "I didn't know that!" The message is identifiable. A reader already interested in the subject will keep reading. The essential 5 W's are there. It's informative rather than compelling. The message is absent. The lead does not convey the 5 W's. There is no reason to expect a reader to keep on reading.

Headline & lead

(news angle)

News angle is sharp, irresistible. Clearly a story of real news value, written with editor's needs in mind. He or she might ditch another news story to make room for this one. Technically, this is a news story but the news angle is merely identifiable, not dominant -- an editor might well say "So what?" The writer has not fully exploited the news potential in the material. The basic information may be in place but the story has no news value. It's written not for an editor who will likely toss it.

Key Ideas

The story's best 5 W's have been exploited, and the other key ideas support the message and validate the news angle. Paragraphs methodically develop the argument, in descending order, with effective use of quotes. The story's 5 W's can be identified. Other key ideas are present but could be arranged more effectively in support of the message. No (inverted) pyramid of argument in the paragraph order. No quotes, or they're bland, or poorly identified, or don't move the story forward. The writer does not seem to have definitely decided on all 5 W's, or has otherwise left out key information. Poor organization. Repetitiveness. No quotes. Release too short.

Journalistic style

Release is written in cool, crisp journalistic style. The tone is dispassionate and objective, even when enthusiasm is evident. No way it could be confused with advertising copy. Release attempts journalistic style, but other influences invade, including newsletter chattiness, or promotional puffery. Likely the writer doesn't read newspapers, but is at least making an effort to imitate a formalistic style. The writer apparently does not understand what journalistic style is.


Spelling, punctuation & grammar consistent.. Sentences effectively and pleasantly varied, with few subordinate clauses -- rarely more than three typewritten lines. Paragraphs are each based on one dominant idea, and rarely exceed three sentences. Occasional spelling errors. Unclear on punctuation rules. Minor difficulties with grammar amounting to awkward structure or poor choices, not glaring errors. Sentences too long or too choppy. Paragraph structure does not reflect organized thoughts. Poor spelling AND poor punctuation AND poor grammar. Run-on sentences, fragmented sentences. Poor understanding of principles of paragraphing. | | |

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