Like all genres and styles of writing, each mode has its own convention, or what is generally considered as best practice. Here’s a few winning tips to help your Media Release be picked up for the Afternoon Edition or that trade publication your client has been dying to get free press in…
By submitting a polished, press-quality Media Release (MR), your chances of being picked up greatly increases. This can be boiled down to a few reasons:
Most writers have experienced just how stingy print publishers can be and frankly, it’s not their fault. Print Publishers (unless you’re the Editor of US Vogue) run on a fairly low margin and with the Accountant breathing down their necks, they are always looking for ways to save a dollar. As Publishers will have few paid Journalists and Subeditors on staff, most of what you and I read are submitted by freelance writers. Publishers love to receive press-quality MRs because they don’t have to allocate manpower to tidy up the story.
Secondly, and most importantly for your client, your primary intention should be to submit an MR with very targeted key messages, so if a subbie has to hack through your MR to make it press ready, you run the risk of your client’s key messages not being received as intended.
Also, as Journalists are underpaid and overworked (freebie from companies plugging their goods just doesn’t pay the rent) they embrace press quality MRs because it means they can submit your work, with their byline, without having to do any work – so it’s a win-win deal all round.
My top tips for writing a winning MR:
- Ask yourself – who is my audience? Make sure your writing style reflects the style of publication
- Ask yourself – what is the purpose of this MR? What do you want the audience to do or think after they have read your MR? In other words, how do you want to ‘position’ the reader? By asking yourself these questions, it will help you filter out any content that is not on message.
- Headings should never be more than six words. Use narrative devices such as alliteration, consonance and assonance to help your MR stand out.
- Slugs will sell your article. You have one or two sentences to hook your audience in – and to encapsulate what your story is about.
- Do not ask a rhetorical question in the Heading or Slug
- Do not start with a quote in the Heading or Slug
- Do not start with numbers or dates in the Heading or Slug
- The body of your MR should be in order of priority of information. Think of a reverse pyramid and write the most important information in the first three paragraphs. This is because the subbie may need to cut out words to make space on a page layout, and they will cut your MR from the bottom up.
- The first paragraph needs to include details on who, what, where, how, when and why.
- Use present tense instead of past tense. This helps your Media Release to feel relevant and gives it a sense of immediacy – which is what you want in a news story.
- Introduce subjects as Position Title / Name first and any subsequent mentions with last name only.
- Use short paragraphs and simple sentences.
- Highlight what you think is the best grab in the article and italicize/bold it. This is a subtle way to suggest to the publisher what should be a pullout grab, without telling them how to suck eggs.
- Most importantly, always submit two high resolution images with your MR and a photo caption.
- At the end of your MR, make sure the publisher has your details to contact for further information if they want to flesh out your MR into an extended feature article.
Lastly, when you submit your MR, don’t just email it and hope for the best. Follow up with a phone call to the features editor and introduce yourself and let them know what you’re sending through for their consideration.
Till next time, crack a queer whid!