The complete guide to writing media releases that get noticed
A good dose of positive media coverage can do wonders for your reputation, brand-awareness and bottom line.
It can be a great channel for reaching large numbers or a specific audience (by location, demographic or industry, for example). Plus, it can be a cost-effective way to gain wide exposure that often carries more credible than your own marketing efforts.
So if you’ve got a newsworthy story to tell, why wouldn’t you go for it? The catch is you don’t have complete control of the message. You also have no guarantee your story will be picked up. But if you can learn to identify what makes a good news story and how to hook a journalist with a well-written media release (aka press release), you’ll be in a good position to get noticed.
What makes a good news story?
Before you do anything, look objectively at your potential news story. Is it really a news story? Does it have news value, or would it be more appropriate in your blog or e-newsletter? Just like any good story, it's often all in the way it's told. If your first angle doesn't quite cut it, think about whether there's a different perspective you could take.
Unsure what "newsworthy" even means? Have a read through this list of news values (the more categories your story fits into, the more newsworthy it will be).
Location – most media will cover a specific geographical range – your story needs to be relevant to the audience in this location.
Timeliness – it needs to be current (remember, it’s called ‘news’, not ‘olds’).
Human interest – can people relate to it? Does it describe experiences and is it emotive?
Impact on audience – think about your angle from the audience’s point of view. Does it affect them in some way?
Extremes – is it the longest, fastest, first, last or highest?
Novelty (including quirky or odd) – something people haven’t heard or seen before often gets attention. A ‘first of its kind’ is a great way of describing something new.
Bonus tip: Get to know the news site, magazine or newspaper you’re aiming for. Get a feel for the types of stories they run. This will help you understand the content they’re likely to pick up and what angle you should take.
Media release ideas
Confused about when a media release might be appropriate? Here are some ideas.
Launching a new initiative or campaign (remember, write from the perspective of the people it will impact).
New industry trends (this could be your business commenting on a trend and what it means for your audience).
Telling human stories (eg someone whose life has changed because of something your organisation has done).
Hosting an event (make sure you send your release out before the event - although you can also send photos afterwards as some media include 'Out and About' photo sections).
Launching a new product (this can be a tricky one to get interest in if it’s purely a brand push so think about how you can write from the perspective of who your new product will impact).
Receiving an award (make sure this goes out immediately after receiving it or it’ll be old news).
Announcing new executive roles (this may be picked up if you’re known among the particular media outlet's audience).
Milestones (eg x number of people through your doors).
Bonus tip: Media releases that are a simple brand push will often be ignored. Think about different angles you could use to gain exposure (eg could your business comment on an issue that’s topical in your industry right now?).
How to write a media release
A media release is a teaser. It should be a quick rundown (generally, no more than one page) that succinctly tells your story and entices the journalist to contact you. It's usually the first step towards getting an interview (although it is possible your media release will be run word for word - if it's well-written).
Remember, journalists are very busy with loads of deadlines. They can receive hundreds of emails each day, so your story needs to be interesting, newsworthy, relevant and snappy.
Here’s how a media release should flow:
[This is your hook. It should attract attention, but be careful not to over promise. If your headline is an exaggeration of what's to come, it’ll only annoy the journalist. Keep it succinct.]
[Put your most important information here. It should include who, what, why, when, where and (if appropriate) how. The opening paragraph will either entice a journalist to read on, or turn them away.]
[This should expand on your opening paragraph and support everything it says. Give more detail on your story, but continue to go from most important to least important.
The body is where you can include relevant quotes (aim for two perspectives if you can). Quotes are a good opportunity to provide insight and opinion (and emotion if appropriate) into your story (remember, anything that's not a quote should be fact, not opinion). Make sure you include the names, titles and organisations of those who are quoted. Here's an example:
“As a professional writer, I love working with businesses from Hamilton and further afield to help them find the right words to tell their stories,” says Two Sides’ copywriter, Hannah McCreery.
When speaking with your subject, ask them the same question in a few different ways so you have options and can pull out the most effective quotes. Generally, quotes should be no more than one or two sentences.
The body of the release is also a good place to use facts and figures to back up your story. It’ll give it credibility.]
[This is for the least important (but still necessary) information. For example, if your press release is about an upcoming event, you might put details about what time it starts and the exact location here.]
[This is where you add the name, title, organisation and contact details for the person the journalist should contact for more information or to arrange interviews, photos etc]
[This is where you can add a brief summary of your business if appropriate. No more than one short paragraph.]
Bonus tip: Make sure your contact person is available to take calls and respond to emails as soon as the press release goes out – a journalist may only try once before moving onto another story.
Beyond the media release
A well-written media release can put you in a good position to get noticed, but there are other things to consider beyond the release.
Send your media release in the body of an email (not as an attachment). You don’t want to add any more barriers to your content being seen.
Personalise your emails. Do some research and find out which journalist covers your industry within the particular media outlet you’re going for and email them directly. It’s worth the extra time and effort.
If you have good quality photos, send them. But make sure the files aren’t too large. You can add a note to say that high resolution images are available on request. Make sure you include captions with names.
Take deadlines into account. Again, this takes a little more time and effort, but if you hit a journalist right on deadline, you’ll probably get ignored. Plus, if your story is time-sensitive you don’t want to miss the opportunity to get covered immediately.
Follow up. Don’t fire your release out to the world and hope for the best. Give it a day or two then send another quick email or make a phone call. Keep in mind that some media will only be interested in an exclusive, so consider that before you hit send.
If you need to, you can include fact sheets or links to further information if it helps back up your press release. But be careful of information overload.
Bonus tip: If you’ve got a credible role within your community and something interesting and topical to comment on, you may want to consider an opinion piece. These are another great way to build a positive reputation as a thought-leader within your field of expertise. Check out Stuff's opinion pages for examples.
Need a hand?
If you still need help finding the right words for your media release/press release or opinion piece, get in touch with experienced kiwi copywriter, Hannah McCreery.
Hannah is a copywriter, content writer, editor and proofreader. She works with businesses, agencies and non-profits in Hamilton, Tauranga, Taupo and further afield to Palmerston North, Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland (as well as a small number of international clients).
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