Your Partnership and the Media - Preparing and Writing Media Releases

Your community business partnership may be doing some great work in the area, but without some publicity or media coverage, much of that good work may go unnoticed.

For many community groups – be they involved in community business partnerships or not – the perennial cry is "How do we get media coverage of what we are doing?"

Not only is it important to get media coverage of your successes, but coverage before any major events you may be holding to encourage more people to take part is also important.

One way to do that is through a well-written and targeted media release. A media release has a number of advantages, including:
  • Getting the message out there. Not only to your own partnership groups – who will feel good about seeing what they are doing in print - but also to potential supporters and members.
  • Being relatively easy to write. A media release isn't too hard to prepare and write, yet a well-written one is very effective.
  • Not being too time consuming to prepare. While a bit of work needs to go towards producing an effective media release, all in all, it should not take too much time to put one together once your partnership knows what it wishes to publicise.
  • Being cheap. A release only takes some thought, writing, proof-reading (and of course something worth telling people) to produce. Even distributing it via the fax, post or email is pretty easy and not too costly. Not only that, but if your press release leads to an article in the paper, that article is cheap as well.
  • Able to target audiences. A media release can easily be targeted to certain groups or contacts, ensuring it gets to who your partnership wants the information to reach.
  • That journalists like it. Releases provide the media with a "heads-up". Don't believe that journalists know everything that is going on – they rely on their "contacts", meetings, announcements and things like press releases for many of their news stories. A media release brings your partnership and its efforts to their attention.

Preparing a media release

Preparing a media release takes some planning. But this preliminary work will help ensure a solid, focussed and well-written media release that goes to the right people and the right places.

Some of the things you and your partnership should do in preparing a press release include:
  • Deciding on the topic. Make sure you are clear on what the press release is going to be about. That should help you focus your writing in the right direction.
  • Deciding on who will write the release and who will approve it. Don't let any press release go to the media before it has been written, proofed and signed off. This should be something previously agreed on in putting together your agreement, but if not, do so now.
  • Deciding on the audience it should be targeted at. Should the release be aimed at a local, state or national audience? Also think about what type of media should be contacted – health, transport, political, environmental? Be realistic also - certain stories will interest different people, but more community-based or focussed stories are most likely to be attractive to local newspapers which can reach between 40,000-150,000 readers. If you can bring out the human interest, the release may arouse wider interest.
  • Looking at which section of the newspaper to target. Again, be realistic. If you believe your group's activities are worth a story, aim for that. However, if they are only worth a mention in the community column or "around town" page, aim for that instead.
  • Deciding on the best way to get the release out there. Be it email, fax, post or a combination of all of them.
  • Finding out newspaper/media deadlines and knowing who you should send your media release to. Your partnership could already know this through existing media contacts, but if not, you can ring media outlets and find this out. Sending your release to the right person and to the right department is vital.
  • Preparing well in advance when appropriate. Don't send out the press release as an afterthought a week before the event is going to occur. Depending on your partnership's activity, aim for publicity a month or more from the event, and then follow up with further releases closer to the date of the activity itself.

Writing a media release

Before drafting your release, you could ask yourself the following questions:
  • Have we written down all the major points? Consider what the media and the public would be interested in and communicate those messages to them. Then place your points in descending order from the most important to the least important.
  • Is our message clear?
  • Could our message be made more topical?
  • Have we covered the human angle? Talking about people and what impacts your partnership is having on people is much more interesting and attention-grabbing than mere statistics.
  • Has the release got a hook? Will the first line or paragraph "hook" the media and the public and attract them.

Once you start writing the release, you may want to keep in mind:
  • Using the headline to grab attention. 
    • Make it short and sweet, and don't be afraid to be creative to grab the reporter's attention.
  • Clearly stating the date of release or embargo date on the release.
    • Clearly state the release date or embargo date for your release. You want to make sure the information is used properly and at the right time.
  • Emphasising the important points. 
    • Make sure you include the most important points in the first two paragraphs. Cover the who, what, when, why and how of your story early, with more details able to be included later in the release.
  • Keeping your writing simple. 
    • Use:
      • Short sentences.
      • A tight writing style - don't waffle.
      • A style that also sees the release written in the way your partnership would like to see it reported. Don't make it hard for reporters to find the best parts of the release.
  • Making it easy to read.
    •  Use:
      • Good line spacing.
      • A nice, clear font.
      • An easy-to-read point size.
  • Mentioning both partners. 
    • Ensure all relevant people are mentioned in the release, and emphasise the "team effort" of your partnership.
  • Using quotes.
    • Make the release more human and also more relevant. Try and use quotes that add clarity or can sum up your release in a concise, lively manner. It also helps to put a face to your partnership and what it is doing.
  • Writing to length.
    • Keep your media release to a page, a page and a half at the most. If people are interested in the story they will have been sold by the time they get to the end of the first page. If they need more information they can ring the contact at the bottom.
  • Including the vital details.
    • Highlight the location, the date, and the time of your partnership event, announcement or activity (if appropriate). Also include the contact details for the partnership member who is going to talk to the media.
  • Sticking to the facts.
    • Be honest and don't oversell. The efforts of your partnership should be able to sell themselves, so highlight those efforts – what they have achieved and why they are good.
  • Re-reading and proofreading. 
    • Read the release aloud to make sure it makes sense and is interesting to those who will read it. After you have completed it, make sure the release is proofed and cleared by those who should do so before it is released to the media.

The next step is to follow up the release. More information on that topic can be found in the Help Sheet Your Partnership and the Media - Following Up Media Releases at the partnerships Brokerage Service section of the Our Community website.