By Carole Morgan
The media release is a powerful vehicle for reaching newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations, wire services and other news bureaus at a relatively low cost. A good media release answers six basic questions in the first few sentences, called the lead: Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How? It then goes into details of the story, with each sentence declining in importance in what is called an inverted pyramid style. This allows the editor to grasp important facts early and, when space is limited, cut from the bottom without losing the essence of the story.
Be short. Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs. (Two sentences or a maximum of five typed lines make a good paragraph.) Avoid comments, adjectives, personal pronouns and personal opinions, unless they are part of someone’s direct quote.
Follow the paper’s style. Reading your local newspapers carefully will be a good self-education, and you should purchase an Associated Press Stylebook to provide answers to questions about use of figures, abbreviations, titles and other matters of style.
Type your release. Use 8-1/2 x 11-inch letterhead or plain white paper with your organization’s name and address typed at the top. Leave at least one-inch margins on each side and double-space your typewritten copy so that the editor can make changes.
Use proper format. In the top left, type “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE” which means the story may be used anytime, or “FOR RELEASE BY:” followed by a date, if there is a time factor. Under this, type “CONTACT:” followed by your name, title and email address. Under that, type your phone number. (List home, cell or pager numbers if the material is time sensitive, as the reporter may have additional questions.
While it is not necessary to write a headline, it’s a good idea because it gives the editor the essence of the story. This headline should be short, centered and typed in all caps. Winning words for headlines are: you, your, new, now, why, who, how, quick, people, free, easy, money, want and save.
If your story is longer than one page, try to end with a complete paragraph and then type “— more —” in the center at the bottom. At the top left of successive pages, type one or two words (slug) from the headline to identify that it is part of the same release. Under that, type “page 2” etc.
Signify the end of the release by using “###” centered on a separate line at the end.
Include a photo. Some releases warrant an accompanying photograph and caption. Most newspapers accept black-and-white or color photos. Just make sure it is sharp and of good quality. Email your photo in JPEG format that’s at least 200KB in size but less than 1,000KB.
Type your caption (cutline), keeping it short and identifying people from left to right, and place it at the bottom of your press release.
Email your story, photo(s) and caption(s) to the publication editor and other media news contacts in a timely manner and in consideration of news deadlines.
This is part of a series of “how to” articles on marketing communications presented by Beeler & Associates (B&A), Long Beach’s oldest advertising and public relations agency. Topics will be added monthly. To suggest topics, write to B&A using the “Contact Us” form or call (562) 597-9000.