As marketing budgets are reduced, many companies are turning to public relations as a cost-effective way to get their messages out.
Media releases, also called ‘news releases’ and ‘press releases’, can be an effective part of your company’s public relations programme. Unfortunately, most media releases end up in the recycling bin and never make it out of the newsroom. There’s no guarantee that your news will be published or presented, but there are some simple steps you can take to improve your chances.
Find a newsworthy story
A media release is not an advertisement. It should tell editors and journalists your news in an appealing and succinct way. Finding the right story often requires research. Start by looking for interesting and unique developments in your business.
A new location or product might seem exciting within your company, but it may not be so for your audience. If there is something unique or beneficial about your new location or product, then you might have a newsworthy angle. Think about the story from the perspective of your target audience and what will interest them. If you can’t find a newsworthy story now, it’s probably better to wait for the right opportunity.
Write a strong beginning
The most important elements of a media release are the headline and lead paragraph. The headline summarises your story in a few words and the lead expands upon it with more detail.
A good headline will grab the attention of an editor and make them want to read more. If you have a new product, what makes it stand out from your other products or those of competitors? Is it more efficient, less expensive, more durable, or based on cutting-edge technology? If you are promoting an event, will there be important guests, speakers or announcements?
Wordy summaries are less likely to get read, so you should summarise your news in fewer than thirty words. Good headlines and summaries address the 'who', 'what', 'when', 'where', 'why' and 'how' aspects of your story.
Support your story with details and quotations
The body of your media release is where you provide facts, quotations, examples and other supporting information. Decide who will be your company spokesperson and include quotations that support your news story. It is customary to introduce your spokesperson with an indirect quote and follow with direct quotations. You can quote another person if they will add insight, but avoid quoting more than two people – this can make your media release too complicated.
If editors and journalists are on tight deadlines, they do not have time to follow up to get additional quotations from your spokesperson. So relevant quotations will improve the chances of getting your story published. When including quotations in your media release, remember that it’s not an advertisement. Stick to the facts and avoid hype and superlatives.
Follow the standard format
Type MEDIA RELEASE at the top of the page, followed by the date, headline, lead and body text (the story itself). Include your contact details at the bottom of the page. You should also indicate the availability of photos, and opportunities to take photos and interview your spokesperson.
Target your media
A great media release is worthless if you don’t send to relevant media outlets. If you have a new product that increases safety in factories, for example, it’s not fitting for your local paper. You will want to target your release to publications with readers interested in manufacturing and factory safety. If you plan to send out media releases regularly, get a hard copy or online version of a media directory that lists media outlets and contacts.
Put it together
Writing an effective media release does not have to be a big challenge. Start with a good story, and write a strong headline and lead. Then follow up with supporting material, especially pertinent quotations. Finally, do the research and target your story to media outlets that have readers and viewers who will be interested in your news.