Many stories in the media are generated by media releases. Businesses, politicians and government departments and community organisations all issue media releases to highlight their news or views on events, projects and issues.
Press releases are effective in alerting the media to potential stories but the publication of the information in the release depends on many factors, including the amount of news competing for space in a particular issue or news bulletin, the newsworthiness of the information itself, the format in which the release is provided and the availability of all the relevant facts.
The format is important because journalists are busy people who are usually bombarded with a lot of potential news stories.
Information provided to them in the manner that best suits their production requirements, including deadlines, and in a format that does not require a lot of re-checking of facts or rewriting, will be more likely to be published!
The steps to follow in issuing a media release
- Decide who will be interested in the information - who is the audience?
- Decide which media communicates with that audience.
- Contact the media outlet and check their deadlines, production requirements, contacts, their potential interest in your information - what do they want to make it more acceptable for publication, and what is their policy and requirements on submitted photographs?
- Plan a schedule for the media release - you have more chance of publication if the release is issued well ahead of the deadline, allowing follow-up by the media and possible photographic coverage.
- Write the press release with all of the information required in it - especially contact details for further details or clarification.
- Have the press release checked for errors by someone else, paying particular attention to dates, times, venues and contact information.
- Have the release cleared by the Club President and, if necessary, the District Governor or District Marketing Committee Chairman if it contains any contentious information or makes any representations on behalf of Rotary International or if it is to be provided to the metropolitan media (TV, radio and daily newspapers).
- Issue the media release.
- Call your media contact to check they have received the release and to ascertain if they need more information.
- Ensure that the person who is listed as the contact on the media release is available on the published phone number.
- Ring and thank your media contact if your news is published, even if you consider it was not given the prominence that your had anticipated - the idea is to consider the long term. An unqualified thank you will give you a head start with the next media release you issue!
- Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get coverage. There is a lot of competition for the available media space and time available. Persistence and a professional approach will create many opportunities in the long run.
Structure of the Media Release
“One sentence, one paragraph, one thought, one page”
- Brief Catchy Headline six words or less
- Leading Angle attention grabbing, benefit, or consequence
- Orienting helps readers make sense of event or situation
- Details expands previous information
- Quote from designated media release spokesperson
- Support info from associated individuals/organisations
- Final Quote/Parting shot from designated media release spokesperson
- Contact information essential to maintain contact with media
Writing the Media Release
Use the Media Release template
Media release – 7 to 9 paragraphs – 200 to 250 words.
First one to three paragraphs answer the questions Who? What? When? Where? and Why? with How? usually covered later in the release.
An information page can be attached if desired.
If there is photographic or video material available say so at the top or bottom of the release and say what format it is in.
Add any, or all, of the following information at the bottom of the release.
For further information
You can give the name and phone number of person that you would want media to contact initially
President of the Rotary Club of……….. : Name of president and phone number
Media Contact: Name of designated club media person and phone number
- Each paragraph should be one sentence and should be 30 words or less.
- Put the most important information in the early paragraphs with the first paragraph effectively summarising the rest of the story.
- Try to focus on the benefit rather than the logistics i.e. Senior citizens in Mulgrave will enjoy greater security and increased protection in the event of falls at home…. instead of the Rotary Club of Mulgrave will spend $5000 on personal alarms for senior citizens or Janine Smith has been packing her suitcase and brushing up her French…. instead of The Rotary Club of Hampton has selected Janine Smith as an exchange student to France.
- Answer the Who, What, When, Where and Why questions in the first two to three paragraphs and then develop the story, including the How, in subsequent paragraphs.
- Don’t forget to include any significant sponsors in the last few paragraphs of the release.
- Include statistics if they make your story clearer or more newsworthy but don’t provide too many figures. Stick with key information and don’t overdo the adjectives.
- Ensure that the news release highlights the local angle of the story.
- Attribute statements to a named local Rotary spokesperson, usually the Club President. You can incorporate one or two comments from someone else, who is a supporter, such as the principal of a school benefiting from a project and/or a school parent but do not use more than three people in a story and do not mix their comments.
- Most comments should be attributed to one person with supporting comments from persons one and/or two simply included to provide an understanding of the value of the project or activity.
- Include all of the relevant facts but don’t overwrite the story. A news release should not be more than one page long. If any aspect needs more explanation, include it in an accompanying fact sheet.
- Ensure that the media release is accurate and that any statements are supported by facts and keep the information consistent throughout especially with spellings and names (John, Jonathan, Jon, and Jonathon use one form throughout).
- Include a headline with your story.
- Include contact details for the people quoted in the media release and the person issuing the media release: names, positions and accessible phone numbers and an email address.
- Include a date on the news release and an embargo if you do not want it published ahead of a particular day or time. Most media outlets will honour an embargo. DO NOT give a reporter a quote ‘off the record’ and expect them to honour your confidence. They will most likely find someone else who can give them the same information and quote that person.
- Always provide an original of the media release to the media outlet as a copy will give the impression that the story may have been used by others.
- Include a good quality photograph and provide a caption if it is likely to add value to the story or, alternatively, highlight possible photographs or television coverage at the foot of the news release.
- In any accompanying fact sheet, highlight the availability of someone for interview if the journalist wants to expand on the story. A good way to build a relationship is to use the phone to give a reporter an outline of the information you plan to send them.
- Opportunities for publication are improved if you involve someone prominent in the community in the story as well as if you make the stories personal. Journalists always prefer stories about people.
- The prospects for publication will also be enhanced if you do something different, unusual and visual. The more creative and unusual the activity is, and the more picture opportunities it provides, the more likely it is to obtain media coverage.