Tag: media releases

What is a media release?

If I’m going to keep posting media release templates, or suggestions, and if my “how to write a Media Release” guide is going to be of any use, it strikes me that I probably need to lay down what my understanding of a media release is… otherwise people will keep looking at me funny.

From the very helpfully descriptive name, you might get the idea that a media release is some information that you’re giving to the media. You might also assume that it’s given to the media for a purpose – and usually this purpose is to secure some sort of media coverage for something, though it might, in the reverse, be used to water down an issue so that you don’t receive coverage – if you can make something seem more boring and less newsworthy than it is.

That’s a pretty limited, though functional, definition of what a media release is.

Here’s my definition.

A media release is a thoughtfully crafted, public, summary of your key messages, and your brand platform, usually in response to a set of newsworthy circumstances.

Media Releases are best, in my opinion, when they’re proactive, not reactive. When you’re on the front foot, looking to contribute to a conversation, not when you’re being chased to say something in response to some circumstances that might be related to you.

It’s not actually for the media, though they are its first readers – it’s for the public. It sums up what you think of an issue, so that the media, if they want to write a story about it, can include your perspective.

It should be tight. It should be not too long (I generally aim for about 500 words). It should be relevant and timely. It should contain news. It should contain facts that back up opinions. It should include your opinions – as quotes from someone credible. It should start with the important stuff and work down – in the good old inverted news pyramid (so that the bottom stuff doesn’t need to be read).

Public relations is about people, and for people. The public. You’re relating to them. There’s no real magic to it. People want to know how your story applies to the average Joe or Joanne. A good media release tells a story that people want to read. So it should also be relatable, and wherever possible include a real person who is affected by your story. People like reading about people.

But if your media release doesn’t present your view on an issue, from your platform, and include what you want to say about the issue – then don’t send it. That’s pretty much the point of this other post about how I think Christians should be doing media stuff.

If you think you can say all you need to say about a complex issue in three sentences, then by all means, send that, but a busy journalist isn’t going to thank you because they have to call you to get more information, or if they have to call you not having the information they need. They’re also not going to necessarily read to the end.

But the journalist isn’t your only audience – so you don’t have to only write three sentences. Your media releases will also inform your spokespeople, if you have a diverse organisation, and provide them with a guide to what your key messages are, they’ll inform your staff, your members, your customers, your congregants, anybody who reads what you say.

If you’re not publishing your own media releases – via your website, and social media, then again, I’d ask what the point is. They’re essentially a publication, from your organisation, on an issue. Publishing them widely also pre-empts the possibility of you being taken out of context, or misrepresented. The media isn’t generally out to misrepresent you – despite what some more paranoid, and less clear, communicators might think.

You can read a bit more about my approach to writing media releases, or about paying me to write them for you, here. If you ask nicely and it seems valuable, I might even write them for free.

Tips for better media releases

Hey. If you liked my “How to write a media release to promote your church event” post from about this time last year. Then you should check out the twelve tips I just posted as a follow up on Venn Theology. And feel free to comment there with any questions/additions.

This is a post about the best media release ever written

This is an introduction sentence.

This is a quote from that release.

“The science behind this Earth-shattering news release lies in its simplicity – no science, just pure old press release craftsmanship. It started with an incredible brainstorming session that asked a very simple question: “what makes a press release amazing?”

Elaborate notes from that brainstorm were then formulated into mesmerizing sentences, paragraphs and pages…all expertly designed to make you pause and reflect at the brilliance of this press release.
Every single word of this news release was track changed, stetted, then track changed again to its original draft. Upon final approval, it was spell checked, fact checked and printed for posterity. The result is a two-page, 1.5-spaced news release that is like no other news release in existence.”

This is a link to that post – which is a promo piece for a PR agency. It’s an interesting way to do it.

If you want to know about how to write your own press release, read this post. If you want me to write one for you, or have a look at one you’ve written. Please email me. We can talk.

My ten favourite media release headings

I have no idea how many media releases I put out in the last four years – it would be close to a thousand. I had a pretty prodigious output in my first couple of years (this isn’t actually a good thing – I didn’t feel like I could refuse to write a release on a dumb  topic back then). Occasionally I was allowed to put out releases with puns in the headings – when they weren’t too cringeworthy (or rude, I might post my rudest (and funniest) one in the comments).

  1. Kopi cats dropping an inimitable brew – This one was special because it is my biggest and most successful story of all time. It’s also about cat poo. Cat poo coffee. This release made it to Indonesia, India, the UK and Europe. Kopi is Indonesian for coffee – and the cat poo coffee is called Kopi Luwak.
  2. Operators hit a Homer – Ulysses beds locked in – I had a lot of fun writing really high brow headings about this story. There was a saga where Townsville couldn’t secure enough advance beds to house the Ulysses Motorcycle Club’s AGM. They wanted to be able to book guaranteed beds two years in advance. Other headings included – Ulysses offer not a Trojan Horse, and Space problem means Ulysses Club may take 2008 odyssey elsewhere.
  3. Be blown away by North Queensland – a release about helping the tourism industry recover from the perception that we were damaged by Cyclone Larry.
  4. Cummins: recipe for marketing with bite – Advertising guru Sean Cummins came to Townsville to run a marketing workshop.
  5. TREC joins starship Enterprise – I really like puns based on acronyms. I don’t know why. This one was about the Townsville Regional Engineering Cluster joining Townsville Enterprise. Here are some others. ACASPA: a friendly host (about a conference that came to Townsville because it was a friendly city), ATEC’s message for tourism operators (about the Australian Tourism Export Council’s conference), Townsville operators AIME for success (about the Asia Pacific Incentives, Meetings and Events expo) and Tourism industry hunts pieces of ATE treasure with island rebranding (about the Australian Tourism Exchange – a Tourism trade show).
  6. Regions join fellowship of the zing – I wrote a lot about energy generation. This one was about Townsville joining with Mackay, Mount Isa and Cairns to lobby for energy.
  7. Solar plea: don’t stick it where the sun don’t shine – K-Rudd’s solar flagship program will put billion dollar power stations around Australia. Townsville wants one.
  8. McDonald no longer on the farm – our new Economic Development manager (at the time) had a background in agriculture.
  9. Dream time becomes a virtual reality* – About a local indigenous tourism operators use of some grant money for AV equipment.
  10. New flights to boost capital expenditure* – About Virgin Blue launching four new routes to Townsville in one day.

* These ones had rude or politically incorrect alternatives.

Things that make me grumpy!

I have a pet hate. I hate a particular sub-species of grammar nazi. Well, a couple of sub-species actually.*

I hate it when I write perfectly parsed, syntaxed and phrased quotes to be included in a third party’s media release and they come back changed.

I especially hate it when that change includes the addition of an exclamation mark, or a change of spelling (program v programme) because your style guide is stuck in the mother country.

You may think you’re a better writer than me, you may be a better writer than me – but don’t ask for my help and then bastardise my quotes with awful punctuation.

If you do this I will laugh at you when nobody comes to your press conference – even though you waste almost an hour of my CEO’s time.

That is all.

*I also have a mild disdain for the Grammar SS, those Grammar Nazis who run around pulling people up with a public rebuke for a grammatical error. If it’s an issue for you at least have the courtesy to raise a mistake in private rather than trumpeting your grammatical superiority via a snarky comment. It may be that the mistake is an innocent typo.

His master’s voice

Did you know that HMV, the music shop, is so named for the famous picture of a dog and gramophone featured on the record above. It’s called “His Master’s Voice”.

This could easily be a post about guidance and the “voice of God”. Based on the title, anyway. But it’s not. It’s about my job.

My CEO is leaving soon. She’s been here for five years. I’ve been here for three. In that time I’ve learned her “voice” to the point that I can write quotes for her without them being chopped and changed. I used to get a fair bit of red pen scribble on my draft releases. Now I get none. Or not much. If I do it’s because I’ve been too heavy handed in my haranguing of politicians.

We’ll no doubt have a new CEO soon. This presents a problem. A new CEO means having to master a new voice. And more red pen. I hate red pen. I feel a bit like the dog in that painting – who was apparently listening to his dead master’s voice on the gramophone.

The reason I write this now – is that I’ve just written a media release with some quotes from a former manager at Townsville Enterprise – whose voice I used to write also. And she said “that’s just the way I would have said it”. Which is nice. It seems once you’ve learned a voice it’s like learning to ride a bike.

Incidentally – I use blogging as much to develop my written voice as I do to procrastinate. It’s useful. Particularly for one so accustomed to the weasel words of corporate media speak.

Do you have a “voice”, written or otherwise?

I’m not sure how to define “voice” – it’s about style, choice of words, length of sentences, nuance, emphasis, syntax, and phraseology. Some of those things are the same. Others are different. There are certain words, particularly adjectives, that often pop up when I’m writing for particular people.