Without giving away my age, when I started my career in PR, the humble media release (or press release) was the be all and end all of my job. If you had something to share with a journalist – a new product launch, an event, or a visiting dignitary – then you needed to write a media release about it.
The formula, ‘Who, What, Why and When’, in 25 words or less for your lead, needed to really grab the attention of your busy journalist friend.
You would fax it to the news rooms of your media targets (crossing your fingers that it found its way to the right person, only to fax it again because it didn’t), or you spent hours on the floor of your office stuffing the release into media kits that would be sent out via Australia Post.
You could hear the loud cheers from PRs across the nation when Australia connected to the internet and email addresses of individual journalists became freely available!
With the disruption of the web, media releases have morphed slightly with a variety of formats to serve different audiences and different purposes.
Time poor journalists and readers are looking for small chunks of succinct content that incorporates social media, multimedia and links to make it relevant and easy to digest. Media releases that are quick to consume, easy to read and creatively structured are more likely to engage and be picked up by journalists. However, its role in the PR mix hasn’t changed much – its purpose is to provide information to help a journalist build a story.
Media releases need to be authentic, informative and above all else – newsworthy.
When we write media releases in 2016 it’s usually for:
- Mass media outreach: This is predominantly for our consumer work when we need to get our story out to as many relevant media outlets as possible
- Background information: Our corporate work involves pitching different angles of a story to different publications – no two journalists will get the same angle. A media release will be provided as background information
There is also opportunity to rework a media release to produce a variety of other content. A strong media release can form the basis for a blog, a Facebook post or two, or blogger outreach (note: we don’t send media releases to bloggers!).
In addition to distributing the media release to your targeted media list via email (and post/courier if it’s going with a product sample), you can also issue a media release on a wire services such as PRwire. By including key words/phrases and embedded links you have the added benefit of helping your SEO.
What do journalists think about media releases? Well that hasn’t changed over the years – they have a love-hate relationship with them. This is from a journo friend of mine:
‘I might have a quick skim then bin them (or keep anything important for background). We would never publish a press release, so what’s useful are the key facts, etc.
Ideally if the info in the press release is of big news interest to us we’d have been given the heads up so we can announce whatever it is at the same time online. Big news press releases that take us by surprise are never good and usually mean that the info has been given to our competitor first.’
It will be interesting to see how the media release will change again over the next decade – it’s stood the test of time thus far…
If you would like to discuss how to make your company insights into newsworthy content, please contact IMPACT on 02 9519 5411.
By Nicole Webb