Organisations and individuals send media releases (sometime called press releases) to the news media in the hope of promoting an announcement, a statement or other information that they would like to be widely distributed.
Media organisations often appreciate the presence of media releases as they are usually written in such a way that a journalist might be able to use some or all of the media release in an article or a news report without needing to do any writing themselves. This saves the news media time and money as some of their articles are pre-written for them.
If you have been asked to write a media release, your aim is to write it in such a way that a busy journalist can read it and feel that they don’t need to change much of your writing before including parts of it in a story of their own.
As such, most media releases follow a fairly similar structure that reflects the usual “inverted pyramid” style of an old-school news report.
Geoffrey James from CBS News suggests there are four important things to remember to include in your media release:
- Use the press release as a sales tool – The aim of a media release is to generate publicity through an article that is written by a credible publication. This can make your information seem more like credible news rather than advertising.
- Have a newsworthy story – If you want the news media to publish your message, you need to convince them that your story is worth telling.
- Write your media release like a reporter would write it – This allows for journalists to publish your content without much editing.
- Incorporate good quotes – This allows your piece to read more like a news report and it also provides journalists with the opportunity to use the quotes in other articles without needing to conduct an interview.
For some example media releases, check out the ACT Government’s latest media releases or the ACT Police’s media releases. You will see here that they follow some important structural requirements of media releases. Open one of their media releases and see if you can notice how it:
- Has one or two bold sentences at the top that include the most important news in the media release
- Is written in an objective tone. This means it doesn’t sound like it is a biased piece that is trying to convince the reader that something is great or important. Remember, if a media organisation is to publish some of your media release as their own story, they need need to sound like they are reporting on something objectively rather than aiming to promote it.
- Uses quotes that sound like they came from an interview rather than just having been written in a media release.
- Is written in the active voice rather than the passive voice. If you’re not sure what this means, check out this video from Howcast.
For some excellent templates to use when writing your own media releases, and for heaps of examples of press releases written for various purposes, Get The Word Out, a media release distribution company from Brisbane has a booklet that they call The Ultimate Media Release Template Handbook. For a much smaller template, Dinah Arndt of Australian progress has written a template for all situations as well.