Writing a Media Release: an abridged extract from the 1999 manual.
Because of the impact that it has on all of our lives, there’s a tendency to forget that the media is nothing more than a very elaborate megaphone; a communications tool that’s most effective when the would-be user knows what batteries to use, which end to speak into, and where to point it if they want to be heard and understood.
It’s a simple analogy that helps highlight the fact that every report that we see, hear, or read about in the media initially depends on just one person – a journalist, editor, or publisher – being convinced that it’s information of interest to their intended audience.
Gaining that one person’s attention requires a little bit of research and effort on the part of a dive operator, but when tackled successfully the benefits are enormous.
News releases should be just that – NEWS. They should also be newsworthy. What may seem important to a particular dive operator does not, necessarily, receive the same priority from either the media or their respective audiences.
Competition for mainstream media space and/or time is fierce. Many large organizations in both the public and private sectors employ full-time staffs – or contract independent Public Relations companies – to ensure positive media exposure for their products and services.
Although sometimes lacking the media firepower of these larger corporations, a diving operator who understands the market and who targets their message to the medium – and its audience – will have the advantage.
Writing a Media Release
When creating and preparing a media release for distribution, always keep in mind the fact that there is no single correct way to write one.
While all media releases should contain certain key facts, it’s how that information is presented that often determines whether or not the item will be used.
How an operator writes and formats a media release will largely depend on how well they’ve carried out their media research. In that regard there are certain guidelines that, if followed, will spice up their communications and help give them an edge.
• Make your releases easy to read. (Don’t use fancy borders or a number of different typefaces. Use a simple typeface in, say, a 12point size with at least 1.5 spaces between lines.)
• Remember that the generous use of white space increases both the readability and impact of a release.
• Use a company letterhead with identifying logo.
• Don’t be too clever with copywriting. You risk being misunderstood.
• Try not to use unusual or difficult words. Everybody understands simple words. Use them.
• Be specific. Give the potential recipient all of the facts. Facts sell more than superlatives and can be summed up in six words: What? Why? When? How? Where? And Who?
• Don’t make exaggerated claims. Ration the use of adjectives and superlatives to give more impact to what you say.
• Where necessary attach a duly captioned picture or photograph. It saves descriptive space and adds impact.
• Ensure that the contact’s name, address and ‘phone number is highly visible should the recipient have follow up questions.
• Include the issue date at the top of the release and whether or not it is to be embargoed (not used), until some future date.
• Clearly state, either at the beginning or end of the release, whether the event or conference presents photo opportunities – and a suitable time for photographers to be present.
• Keep it as succinct and as brief as possible.
Sending a News Release
Before sending a media release, dive operators should ask themselves the following questions:
• What is it that I want to accomplish by sending this news item?
• Is what I have to say newsworthy?
• Is it relevant to the targeted media? Am I directing my message to the most appropriate person?
• Does the news item present photo/film opportunities?
• Should I make provision for supplying pictures?
• Am I telling the media about something that has happened? Or am I inviting coverage of an event that is yet to take place?
• Who will act as the contact point for follow-up media enquiries?
• Does the timing of my release allow sufficient time for the media to act in terms of their deadlines?
There’s an old military adage, “Train Hard: Fight Easy”. It’s one that can be equally applied to diving operators and organisations seeking maximum exposure for their products, goods and services.
In a noisy and crowded marketplace, investing a little time in learning how to work more effectively with the media can boost a marketing budget and help reap positive returns.
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