What is a media release?A media release is a document you send to the media to announce something that is newsworthy. If it grabs a journalist’s attention, they might write an article about it.
Why write media release?A media release can promote your campaign, event or program to the broader community through the media. And this translates into free publicity!
How do journalists handle a media release?Journalists read a lot of media releases. When they read a media release, they visualise the story. They visualise what happened, when, where, why, how and who was involved. They’ll ask themselves questions as to whether the release contains information that is new, unusual, interesting, significant, and whether it’s about people. If the answer is no, they’ll discard it. They’ll look for the right news angle. They may find that there is another angle other than the one you presented in your media release. They’ll be looking for gaps in the story. If they consider your media release newsworthy, they’ll write the story from all available information. They won’t usually just write a story based solely on your media release. If you’re taking a certain position, they may contact other people to show both sides to balance the story.
Where do I start?
Step 1When preparing to write a media release, make a list of the important points you want to make. Include information the general public needs to know as well as information to get the media interested.
Step 2Find the angle. Think about whether your story is newsworthy. Why would a journalist be interested in writing an article about this story? The angle or “hook” is what’s going to grab the attention of the media. For example, you could find a human angle to make the story warmer. Also, look for a point of difference. If you’re hosting an event, what makes it different from other events?
Step 3Write down the answers the following questions:
- Who was involved?
- What happened?
- When did it take place?
- Where did it take place?
- Why did it happen?
Media release structureIt’s crucial that the most important details are placed at the beginning of your media release and the least important towards the end. This is because journalists often trim a story from the bottom up, paragraph by paragraph. You also want the juicy parts of your story at the beginning as an editor might not even read beyond the first paragraph.
The headlineThe headline is the most important part of your media release.
- It should be short and snappy and grab attention.
- It should be active and exciting.
- It should include key words from your release and sum up its subject.
The first paragraph or the leadYou need to include the who, what, where, why, and how, in this paragraph. Keep it succinct. You can add more detail in the following paragraphs. Include the most interesting parts of the story here.
- After the lead, expand on your story and back up your claims with facts and quotes. It’s important to stick to the facts!
- Each remaining paragraph should be less important than the one that precedes it. Also, each paragraph that follows should be self-contained as the journalist may trim the press release.
- Use clear, simple and economical language.
- Don’t be afraid to use dot points.
- Highlight the benefits and achievements of your program/event/campaign. Think positive!
- Make it upbeat, keep your subject interesting, human and relevant. Quotes are good for this.
- Don’t forget the important details, such as times, dates and venues.
EndsFinish off the media release with the word ‘Ends’.
ContactsProvide details of your media contact person for further information, including name, email address, website address and business and after hours contact details. Journalists prefer the phone and work all hours.
Information in this section was drawn from the following sources:
- Live Longer 2011. Community Health Action Pack, Australian Government, Department of Health and Ageing, Canberra
- Sane, n.d., Factsheet: How to write a media release, Sane Media Centre, Victoria. Available from: http://www.sane.org/sane-media/mental-health-sector/working-with-the-media/1010-how-to-write-a-media-release
- Small Business Development Corporation, n.d., How to write a media release, Government of Western Australia. Available from: https://www.smallbusiness.wa.gov.au/TourismBoost/marketing-tips-and-tricks/how-to-write-a-media-release/
- Our Community Pty Ltd, n.d., Media-Preparing a winning strategy-Writing a media release, Our Community, Melbourne. Available from: https://www.ourcommunity.com.au/marketing/marketing_article.jsp?articleId=1575
- The News Manual, 2008, Chapter 18 Media releases, The News Manual, Surry Hills, NSW. Available from: http://www.thenewsmanual.net/Manuals%20Volume%201/volume1_18.htm
For more detailed information about engaging with the media, go to the Australian Drug Foundation website http://www.adf.org.au and download Working with the Media. A common-sense guide for communities taking action to address drug related issues.