There is no guarantee that a media organisation will pick up your release, or run it verbatim, but the odds can be improved with well crafted material that makes it easy for the respective editor or journalist to work with.
The role of the headline is to arrest the attention of the reader; and in the first instance, this is the journalist receiving the release. Keep it short, succinct, with a degree of intrigue. Unless it is essential to the story, it’s preferable to NOT include your business name or product – it could smart of commercialism and be an automatic turnoff for the reporter.
It’s highly likely that in print mediums the headline will be rewritten to fit the width of the laid up story by sub-editors who may base that headline on the first few paragraphs.
It is critical that the key information is contained within the first three paragraphs; who, what, where, when, why and sometimes how if this is critical to the understanding of the story. If space is tight, it may be only the first few paragraphs that run.
Include your organisation’s name and / or product once in these paras; repeat only if it is legitimate to the story (again to avoid a ‘commercial’ bias – journalists do not see it as their role to advertise your business, that’s what the advertising department is for).
It is also highly probable that the first paras may be reworked by the journo to make the story ‘theirs’ and different to any other media organisation it may have been supplied to. See our last point.
Including direct and indirect quotes makes a release more active and dynamic, therefore more interesting. Quoting a spokesperson from your organisation gives the opportunity to legitimately include your organisation’s name. Direct quotes (in speech marks) should be as one would speak so use contractions and ‘colour’. Indirect quotes report what was said so are written in past tense.
Designations and honorifics
Generally media do not capitalise designations so present them that way. Print media style is generally to introduce the speaker as ‘Christian name and surname’ and thereafter to use an honorific and surname, e.g. Ms Cowie. Newsletters and more informal media, including some digital formats, may use the ‘speaker’s’ Christian name; specialist industry publications may just use the surname after the full name introduction.
Least important last
If space constraints (or interest) dictate, a release is generally cut from the bottom so while the most important must be upfront, the least important–can afford to not be included, should be in the latter portion. Having said that, to retain credibility, all the information must be relevant and not ‘fluff’.
For more information
Included at the end of the release, this should be a contact person who has the authority to speak on behalf of the organisation. They must know that they are listed and be available – not on leave, sick, overseas, or difficult to reach. They should have a copy of the release and know what they can and if it’s sensitive, what they should avoid discussing, should a journo phone to get their own slant on the release to make the story ‘theirs’.
Written by Dale Cowie.