There are things you can do to maximise the chances of the media reporting your issue.
Thousands of media releases are generated every day, and most will not succeed in attracting media coverage – at least not on television or in mainstream newspapers.
That’s why it’s important to remember that the media is broad and diverse and there are many thousands of small publications and radio programs focusing on specific areas of interest. So, while you may not make it on to the evening news, you could find yourself reaching audiences you were never even aware of!
Here are some tips to help you get started on your media release:
The ideal format
A media release should be set out on a standard size (A4) sheet of paper with a margin of at least two centimetres on each side and at the top and bottom. It should include the words ‘Media Release’ in large, bold font near the top of the page, so that it is clear what it is.
It is also important for the media to know exactly who has issued the media release. If you are writing it on behalf of an organisation, you can use a letterhead or a small logo. If you are writing it on your behalf, you will need to make sure your name and a relevant description of yourself are set out near the top of the page – for example, ‘Jasmine Gasowski, Smith Street High School Student’. Don’t use graphics or pictures on the release.
The headline of your media release will be the first thing a reader looks at. Put it in bold, large font. The headline serves two purposes: the first is to make it clear what the issue is and what the main message of the media release is, and the second is to catch the reader’s attention and inspire them to read on. For these reasons, the title should be short, punchy, bold and clever.
Make your point in the first sentence
Think about the most important point you want to make and put it in the first sentence. Remember the journalist may never make it to the bottom of the page!
Keep it short and sharp
A media release should never exceed one page. Don’t forget that the main purpose of the release is to catch the media’s attention. If they need more information, they will contact you to follow up.
Your sentences and paragraphs should be short and sharp. Set your other points out clearly and logically and delete any unnecessary words or phrases. Try not to use acronyms, abbreviations or jargon. Although it may seem like stating the obvious, try not to make your media release boring. Boring stories do not make news.
Direct quotes are essential in a media release. They enable a journalist to report on the issue or event as if they had conducted an interview with you. Remember, you may only get one quote into a radio story or newspaper article, so each quote should be worthy of publication. Ideally, quotes should be short, punchy and contain an interesting piece of information or argument. Individuals quoted in a media release should be identified by their position – for example, ‘Jess Chang, Chair of the Hume Women’s Health Action Group’.
Does it pass the ‘no idea’ test?
If someone with no background on your issue read your release, would they understand it? Your release must be informative, interesting, relevant and, most importantly, easy to understand. You must inspire the reader to want to do something about your issue.
Back it up
If you are making claims, you need to have facts and figures to back them up. Try not to make generalisations.
Don’t be defamatory
It is critical that you don’t make statements in a media release that could get you sued. Statements like, “The Minister is a liar”, even if they may be true, it’s probably not a good idea.
What do you want?
Ask yourself what you are trying to achieve by having your issue covered in the media. If someone hears about your issue on the radio or reads about it in the newspaper, is there any follow up action that you want them to take? If you would like them to attend a rally or sign a petition, for example, make sure you include all the information they will need to do this.
Include contact details
The last thing on your media release should be the name of a contact person and their contact details. Make sure the contact person is going to be available to take calls from the media on the number you have provided.
If you have time, put the release aside for an hour then re-read it. Ask yourself whether it is logical, informative and compelling. Is everything spelt correctly? Is it something that will advance your issue or organisation? If so, it’s ready to go!
Sadly people aren’t going to see your press release if you don’t distribute it. It can be difficult especially when starting your advocacy to be connected to the vast array of media networks that could help amplify your issue. You can try specific Facebook and Slack groups, look up and tag journalists on Twitter connected to audiences you would like to reach, for example, you might want to reach women and look up journalists at Women’s Agenda or the Guardian, if you were looking to pitch something to young people look up people connected to Triple J, Pedestrian TV or Teen Vogue for example.
- Find journalists who might be interested in your press release – Google your issue or key message and click the news tab
- Find their contact details or reach out to them on socials like LinkedIn and Twitter
- Have a short rundown of your media release and link to it – some of them get 200 and more pitches a day yours needs to stand out
- Make the subject line pop
- Timing is crucial – most journalists get media releases in the morning and have a stack to go through especially after the weekend, think about timing, the news chatter and what day of the week it is! Tuesdays and Wednesdays are known for their golden timing
- Follow up on your press release – Some friendly post-release contact is encouraged and can help you establish great relationships with journalists, even if your first media release isn’t picked up don’t be discouraged and keep trying different avenues until you find someone who wants to explore the topic more or switch up the techniques you use and the language you use to try different scenarios out
This article is from our Y Advocacy Toolkit, a collection of practical tips and advice navigating advocacy in Australia will help you to identify policy areas of particular interest to you, and who you can talk to about creating change. Want to get more involved in advocacy but don’t know where to start? Why not join our Cyber Feminists (CBF)?