Working with Media Relations - Getting the Word Out
- J. Christopher Watkins, MA, MBA
- Monday, August 4th, 2014
(A PDF version of this article is available as a free TA Paper at T/TAS' Complimentary Resources page. Look for the word "New"!)
The news release is an effective tool for communicating with various audiences, but only if done correctly. By following a few tips, you can help provide the needed information in a timely manner and increase the chances that the release will make a difference.
1. Timing is important. If possible, share information at least two weeks in advance. If you are promoting an event, you increase the chances that your audience will see it in time to participate and that the media will see it in time to cover it.
2. Create a MAP: Message, Audience and Purpose. What is the message you want to convey? Who do you want to see the message? What to you hope to accomplish with the release?
- Know your message. The message can be as simple as giving the details of an event or more complex such as announcing a new degree program. Knowing your message will help you focus on the important information.
- Knowing your target audience is important in determining how and where you present the information. Who do you want to see your release?
- Why do you want to issue the release? Are you looking for someone to attend an event? Do you want to impress prospective students with an achievement? (Keep in mind that while releases can help increase awareness of events, they do not take the place of more targeted marketing techniques.)
3. Provide information. Some required information differs with each release, but the basics remain the same: who is involved, what is going on, when will it take place, where will it happen, why (a big one) and how can someone find out more. If the release is about student accomplishments, provide as much information about the students as possible, particularly hometowns. This allows us to target the newspaper back home. Local connections are important to media outlets.
4. Provide a contact willing and available to answer questions.
5. Write like a journalist. If you are providing the information in the form of a written release, try to present it in a journalistic style, aka inverted pyramid. That means putting the news, or most important information, first, followed by supporting information. Attention spans and news space are both in short supply, so skip the fluff and get right to the news. And keep it simple. Technical jargon may be impressive to your peers, but are they your audience? If not, write so everyone can understand.
6. Have reasonable expectations. Not every release will make the front page (or even the newspaper for that matter). Media Relations has a host of venues for news, so don't be disappointed if you don't see your release in the daily newspaper. It may still be found online, in blogs, etc. Also, we encourage you to repost information to your website. If someone is looking for information about your program, they are more likely to search your website, not our news site.
7. Provide links to additional information when possible. Links in releases give audiences the opportunity to find out more, plus they encourage traffic to your website.
Source: modified from WKU Office of Media Relations, http://www.wku.edu/mediarelations/pr_guide.php