Despite numerous attempts by just about everybody involved to implement change, the media release remains the primary form of contact between journalists and the outside world.
As a journalist you battle to whittle down the massive pile of releases in your inbox into something that may or may not eventually resemble a news story. As a publicist you try everything in your power to make sure your release stays in the mix as long as possible and hopefully goes ‘all the way’.
Over the last 20 years – first as a journalist and then as communications consultant – I have read and written close to 20,000 media releases, maybe more. Some good, some bad, some spectacularly awful.
I used to think building the perfect media release was an art; but have come to understand it as more of a science. There are a few key ingredients which should be the staple of every media release.
Don’t waste your energy, your clients’ money or a journalists’ time by sending them stuff that is not relevant to their publication or audience. The ‘spray and pray’ approach NEVER works and generally only damages yours and your client’s reputation.
The only way to understand if your release is relevant is to understand the publication. It is incredibly time consuming, particularly as the media become more fragmented, but read the newspapers, magazine and blogs you are targeting. Who is their audience, what are their interests and why would your ‘news’ be relevant to them. The fact you are wonderful and have something to sell is not relevant to most journalists (but extremely valuable to the advertising sales department).
At journalism school they call this awareness of relevance ‘news sense’. To make life difficult it’s entirely subjective.
Dropping a great release after deadline is a waste. Some journalists operate on a daily cycle, section editors operate on a weekly cycle while magazine editors and feature writers can operate on a monthly cycle.
Understanding the target audience and their deadlines is imperative. Internal media deadlines are often determined by production deadlines that are determined by technology, which is always changing, so make sure you are always up to date with the latest deadlines.
Being deadline unaware is one of the PR industry’s great failings.
A media release is not an opportunity to recycle your advertising guff. Focus on facts and details. Journalists don’t care about your creative flair, your key messages or your product positioning statement. It’s just background noise that could hide the real news.
Here is a really bad way to write a lead par.
Property buyers are being given the opportunity to experience true spiritual renewal as they escape the everyday and acquire an unprecedented new lifestyle in one of Sydney’s most exciting, cosmopolitan suburbs.”
This is better.
Sydney-based development group Excellent Property has launched a new $200 million, 516 apartment project in the inner-Sydney suburb of Redfern.”
If you can get these three things right in a release you already have a head start on about 95% of the crap that journalists receive.