The media should be considered an important communication tool when promoting events or activities. Unfortunately in many instances media contact is often left as an afterthought, diminishing the potential and effectiveness of media coverage.
The media is in the business of providing news and as such it is important that any content provided is considered newsworthy.
The role of media releases
While the value of media releases has been questioned in recent years, the reality is that they are still useful in outlining the key points you wish to convey.
A media release should be kept to one page and include the date of issue. The first paragraph should summarise the purpose of the release and the content should include a mixture of quotes, as well as background information to provide some context. The body of the media release should finish with a concluding statement, which will often summarise the content in the release or reinforce a key point.
If you are promoting an event it is also worthwhile summarising the key details of the event, such as the date, location and purpose at the end of the media release.
When issuing media releases, consider the scope of your story and the outlets where it would be relevant. For example, there is little benefit in promoting a localised story to state-wide media, unless there is a particularly unique angle. Likewise, if your content is highly specialised then industry publications might be a better option than mainstream media.
For many community organisations, local newspapers are often a good outlet for media coverage. Businesses need to be mindful that media releases should cover news so there needs to be an angle that makes the release newsworthy.
Communicate your message
The turnaround time for media content needs to be considered when issuing a media release. For local papers, which are often released weekly, it is useful to issue media releases at least a fortnight prior to when you would like the story to be published. This provides some flexibility in regard to other stories and ensures that there is sufficient time to discuss the potential story. Event based releases should be promoted at least a month prior to the event to ensure that the story can be released in time to promote attendance.
Once you have dispatched a media release release, it is always useful following up with a telephone call to provide further clarification and to ascertain whether additional information is required. This is always a good opportunity to reinforce the key points with the aim of briefing the journalist on your message.
Councils and Councillors should be proactive in conveying their views to the media and provide an open response. Many Councils make situations difficult by appearing evasive with information.
When there are multiple points of view on a story, the media will often include quotes reflecting these opinions. Always remember that the media exists to report news and as such they have final discretion over what is published. In these cases, it is to convey the key points you wish to deliver, both in a media release and in any follow-up discussions.
It is highly likely that the media will not report all the content you provide due to space considerations, so it always important to consider the key points that you wish to convey.
The key points are the items that are critical in terms of what you wish to convey to the media. For example, if you’re planning an event you want to convey its purpose and why people should attend, as well as the location and date. If these points are not communicated then interest in the story is likely to be diminished.
Always ensure that you remain focused on the key points when speaking to a journalist. Typically a media story will focus on one particular topic so information that is not directly related to the topic is unlikely to be covered.
If you have multiple stories consider how best to plan your media releases to maximise coverage. Unless the issue is particularly topical the media is unlikely to provide continuous coverage to your organisation. Planning media releases can help ensure sufficient pauses, as well as making sure you have enough time to promote the relevant activities.
It is always best to remain courteous to reporters even if you may not be entirely happy with the story that has been produced. Likewise a reporter will not always run each and every media release that they receive, particularly if it is similar to other stories that have been featured. This can also occur if there are a large number of other stories or a particular topical issue that dominates the news.
The media can help you reach a wider audience than you otherwise would be able to reach but make sure you clearly communicate the key points you wish to discuss.