A media release is a document with information you want the media to know about your business and use. Basically, it’s a way to get the media to cover a story you would like to tell.
Alternatively, you might put out a media release if you need to counter bad publicity.
Journalists, editors and media houses might receive scores of press releases every day, so you need to ensure that yours is newsworthy, well written and something that applies to their audience.
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It’s no good sending a media release about your new line of fishing rods to Good Housekeeping magazine, or sending information about an event three weeks after you’ve held it.
The most important things to think about before writing a press release and distributing it to the media are:
- Who do you want to read your article?
- Where do you want the information to appear?
The answer to the first question will generally be your business’s target market, or a section of it.
The answer to the second question must correspond with the answer to the first. If, for example, you want to target young, health-conscious, brand-aware sports people to publicise a new series of trail runs that your sporting event company is launching, you need to research what media they consume.
Public relations (PR) agencies offer this service for a fee. The advantage of working with them is that they have relationships with media people, and are able to distribute content quickly through the right channels. As your business grows, you may consider outsourcing your PR to an agency.
What not to do
A quick word of warning: You might be tempted to send out your media release to every media platform you can think of, even if you know it’s not really relevant to some of them. Don’t.
This damages your credibility with the media. Rather try to build relationships with key people over time, so that they value the content you supply.
The biggest mistake that SMEs tend to make when it comes to sending out media releases is that they sound like advertising, not news. If your story doesn’t have a news angle, it won’t get published.
How to craft an effective release
To give your media release the best chance of being used, start with a good headline. Instead of trying to be too witty, give the facts. For example, ‘XYZ Biz wins international green development award.’
In your first paragraph, introduce one key, newsworthy idea in a single sentence. For example, XYZ Biz today announced plans to open a new solar-powered factory in Port Elizabeth by the end of 2015.
Give the most important info, briefly summed up. This generally includes the ‘5 Ws and H’ – who, what, where, why, when and how?
In your body copy, don’t use jargon or marketing language. Try to stick to about five paragraphs in total. Your entire press release shouldn’t be longer than 800 to 1 000 words.
Include some short and interesting quotes from relevant people (as high up in your organisation as possible). Steer clear of platitudes.
Finally, give contact details for media who would like further info. Refer to available photos.
Once you are happy with your media release, send it out to your targeted media. If you send it as an attachment, write an intro in the email body so that people know who you are. The best option, however, is probably to put the press release into the body of the email.
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Whether your release gets used or not may depend on what other news comes up at the same time.
Coverage is never guaranteed. But, even if you get one ten-minute radio interview on a community station, that’s an audience you would not have otherwise had access to. It’s also a chance to start building a relationship with the station, which may result in future coverage.