Writing a Media Release
Media releases are important written communication tools we use to encourage the media to take an interest in your business. They are the basis of a public relations approach to get a business or organisation non-paid publicity. Media releases published in a newspaper or magazine are much more effective at building a business’ reputation than paid advertising and quite often cheaper. Audio or video pieces are the equivalent radio and television tools.
The Madrigal approach to writing media releases
A media release must provide reliable, quality information to reporters. The reporter needs to be able to trust the source of the information. The media release must be written well to encourage the reporter to use it as a basis of a story or segment. Rather than being ‘literary masterpieces’, media releases contain only the most essential information presented in a concise, accurate and timely manner.
Before we write a media release we determine what the audience wants when they read the targetted newspaper or magazine, or listen or watch the radio or television. Our aim is to make the topic as interesting and relevant to the audience as possible.
The structure of a media release
The first sentence (or paragraph) should contain the who, what, where, when, why and how of the story. All other sentences and paragraphs are written in descending order of importance and interest (with the most important at the top). If the story is cut in the editing process at the newspaper, it is likely to be cut at the bottom. Also, remember that readers will not always read to the end.
Some basic tips for writing a media release
Consider the following points when writing a media release:
Make sure you include the date
Each paragraph should stand alone and contain only one or two short sentences, covering one idea
Use short sentences (average 25 words)
Write in the active voice
Write in the past tense
Write in the third person
Use simple language and avoid jargon, scientific terms or bureaucratic speak
Spell out numbers from one to nine, then use figures 10, 18, 29 etc.
Use title and terms in full on the first usage and then abbreviate subsequent references, however, avoid too many acronyms
As a rule, do not quote more than two people in the one media release, as it can become confusing
Include dates and figures
Nominate a contact person for further information, but ensure this person knows you have used their name and is available to talk to the media
Offer the print media a photograph or graphic if possible (sound bites or video bites for radio and television are excellent).
Media alerts are also useful
A media alert is a short announcement faxed or emailed to the relevant media two or three days prior to an event. Its purpose is to remind editors and journalists of an event you would like them to cover and, like an invitation, contains all essential information at a glance.