For starters, a media release is not a speech, not a rant, and most importantly, not an ad in disguise. Journalists find these last kinds of releases insulting. When I was a reporter for the Globe and Mail Report on Business, we used to make fake-releases-that-were-really-ads into paper airplanes and fly them around the newsroom, before they hit their ultimate destination – the recycling bin.
It’s important to remember that every journalist, whether working in print, electronic or social media (blogging), develops an organic sense about what’s newsworthy, what might lead to a feature article, and what is a lame attempt to flog a product or service for free.
A real honest to goodness media release is a document that is written out in a specific format. Its purpose is to pitch a story to a reporter or editor, or to make a newsworthy announcement.
A release is not a story in and of itself. Think of it, rather, as bait. Or the door opener. Or the beginning of a conversation.
Here are seven tips to help you turn out a valid and timely media release that will get you the news traction you’re seeking.
- Make it newsworthy. Have something powerful to say that will interest the readers of the publication(s) you’ve chosen to target. Keep in mind that the media love news stories with a human side to them. Make your angle on the story entertaining, interesting or newsworthy or don’t bother sending out a release. Ask yourself this question (it rarely fails): “why would anybody beyond my own back yard care about this issue?”
- Do not send out the release as an attachment. It won’t get opened. Paste your copy right into the body of your email, so a reporter can see what it’s about within three seconds. That’s all the time you have to grab attention before a writer hits “delete.” Make it easy. Make it fast. Don’t make them click, convert, or do anything but read. If you must send your release out on letterhead to keep your board of directors happy, do that in an attachment, which I can promise you will still not get opened.
- Use the proper media release format. Have a professional or friendly grammar nerd check the release for grammar and spelling errors. A spelling mistake can be the kiss of death and, at the very least, damages your credibility. So, be sure to get it right.
- Keep the press release concise. Get to the point in the first paragraph. Use clear, simple, bright language. There’s no better way to get your story ignored than to send out a lengthy release that doesn’t say what it’s about (who, when, where, what and, of course, why) right up front.
- Don’t fill the press release with exaggerated claims and trendy phrases. If you want to know what these are, think about words like “leading edge”, “on-the-ground”, “commercialize”, “robust” and “interface.”
- Target your releases. There’s no point in sending out a press release about the launch of your unique nutrition program to Popular Mechanics magazine. Don’t do a blanket send-out to a general media list if your topic is specialized – for example, volunteer management trends or angel investment in technology start-ups.
- Write a great headline. The headline is 90 per cent of your press release. And also write a good subject line for your email, which is not the same thing as the actual headline you’ll use for your release. Basically, you need to write two strong, compelling headlines.
Releases can take time, and effort. If you want some professional help composing a strong media release, and finding the right targets for your release, contact me at 705-772-7692 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.