Module 4: Effective media releases, kits
Media releases are going to be your primary and most important means of contact with editors and reporters. The American Wall Street Journal estimates 90-percent of its coverage originates with companies making their own announcements. Other media, too, rely heavily on news releases. Its important you are able to do them well, so we are going to spend quite a bit of space now reviewing some techniques of preparing good releases.
Most important is to keep your releases interesting, tease the reporter and editor into wanting to know more about your story. You have about five seconds to sell them on your story, before they move on to the next release.
About the content...
Be sure to put the most important facts in the first paragraph or two. Remember the five important questions of journalism: who, what, where, when, why ... and how, if thats important. If you dont get the important information in there, chances are the story wont make it to print or on the air. You should know that editors start cutting the stories from the last paragraphs first, if there isnt room for the entire story. Its called the inverted pyramid. Most important stuff at the top, narrowing down to the least important. A few more release tips:
Media release format:
In module 8 you'll find some sample media releases and formats which have proven successful. For some excellent examples of media releases posted by companies around the world, you might visit PR Newswire or Business Wire.
About news media...
About the follow-up...
Take your news release seriously. If you dont feel comfortable putting it out, seek the expertise of a professional communicator who can do it for you. A shoddy piece of writing is no bargain! Make sure its exciting to you, or it surely wont be exciting to anyone else.
What is news is always defined by the publication or broadcast audience. If your event isnt interesting to an outlet's audience, no editor will readily run a story about it. Period.
Outline your goal in a single sentence. It must be clear to you, and interesting to you, or it will be to no one else. Always decide how you want your release used before you write it.
A standard 300-word release works well for new product news. But dont shy away from writing a full-length feature article concerning your issues, products, and services; lots of editors are hungry for ready-to-use material.
Write your release for its intended market. Every magazine and newspaper has a certain target audience: maybe an older audience, maybe a younger one, maybe liberal, maybe conservative. If you dont target the publications readership, youre asking the editor to do it. And maybe theres just not quite enough time before the publication deadline.
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Remember that your release is only one in a stack of thousands. If you fail the five-second test, into the trash it goes.
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Its a good idea to always have media kits available, for planned news events, or an unplanned media opportunity. The kit should include:
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The news conference
A news conference is where you invite many media at one time to come and hear your exciting announcement. Only hold a media conference if youre absolutely sure the news item is too important to trust it to a release. Make sure the invitation is sent out in plenty of time to give reporters and editors a chance to schedule it about one week. Give a follow-up phone call a day or two before the conference. Make sure you invite everyone who would have an interest. You might make a hostile contact out of anyone you forget.
Make sure the room or other area for the conference is comfortable with places for reporters to sit and take notes. TV news crews may need power for indoor lights, and will need to string microphones. Provide refreshments (reporters always like to be fed). Make sure your newsmakers are well-prepared to present the information, and to handle any questions.
Keep the speeches short. Provide releases and interview opportunities on the spot. Provide something interesting and graphic if possible, such as a demonstration of your product or service. Reporters are very pressed for time if they take enough time out of their day to come to your news conference, make sure its worth it.
A bad news conference can make you look very bad. A good one can make you look very good.
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Fyodor Doestoyevsky wrote, If people around you will not hear you, fall down before them and beg their forgiveness, for in truth you are to blame. Its up to you to make your message interesting enough that people pay attention. Or YOU bear the blame.
Module 5: Preparing yourself and your newsmaker for media interviews.