One of the first things I was taught in my journalism course many years ago was the inverted triangle: ∇. This is a handy little device to keep in mind when you’re creating a media release.
1. Constructing the triangle
If you imagine that the triangle contains your media release or news story, you need to get all your key information right at the top, and your minor information towards the end. Two reasons: media releases are invariably cut back by editors, and they will generally cut once they’ve got the quantity of information they need, eg three or four paragraphs. The second reason: people scan not read, they have short attention spans, so you need to get your message across quickly.
Using this format for a media release – or a case study or news article for your website – should be fairly self-evident. But I’m amazed at the number of times I go through client material and get right to the end before I find the key information. Eg, the client achieved a 90% improvement in efficiency, but they wait till the end of page 2 to tell you!
People with an academic background often put key information at the end of articles, because that’s where they’ve always put the conclusion. So think about your conclusion, and use it at the top.
2. Who, what, where, why, when, how, how much
When you’re assembling your information, make sure you check off all the points above. Sometimes media releases can lack a couple of pieces of absolutely key information – for example, a critical date, the cost, how you can buy the product, where you get more information. Yes, this sounds really basic, but it happens a lot.
3. Writing the media release
If you’re writing a release to submit to a particular publication, check their editorial style first, then follow it. Spelling (USA, Australian, UK), tone of voice and register, whether they use “says” or “said” when directly quoting an interviewee, their use of capital and lower case letters, bulleted lists, etc.
If your media release is directed at news media, write in their style. Short, punchy sentences, a strong headline, good quotes are all important. Include a short case study if you can – most news stories in print media will want to include a case study as a breakout.
Don’t overwrite – an A4 page, or two at most. Ensure you put all the relevant contact details at the end for further information: Name, title, organisation, mobile number for after-hours contact and email and web addresses. If executives are available for interview or photographs, list them and their contact details.
Depending on the media, it may certainly be worth supplying a professionally shot high resolution photograph.
4. Distributing media releases
This is a completely separate skill. I had my own public relations business years ago, and offered this service. I now use a colleague, as I’d rather just focus on the writing and my contact book is way out of date. Good PR consultants are terrific at identifying the right angles for media releases, and may well end up using a different headline and lead paragraphs for different media: eg the same story may have different angles for daily, business, regional, trade, online or specialist media. It’s worth retaining a consultant to distribute an important release, otherwise you may simply lose a good opportunity for media coverage.