Regardless of the terminology you employ, a release is one way of generating editorial about your organisation. Getting your stories published relies on a lot of factors. The most important of these include your release's relevance, newsworthiness and presentation.
In the IT industry media releases are most effective when used to announce new products, financial results or recent staff appointments. General news does not have such a great hit rate using this approach, except perhaps for the major industry players.
Considering newspapers regularly receive hundreds of media releases each week, it is important that your story stands out as one of the more professionally written. It is also a significant advantage to include a colour photograph.
This means that faxing your media release is not as effective as snail mail or e-mail, where photographs can be sent as attached .Tiff files or posted for collection from your home page. However, beware of using e-mail with all publications as some are restricting their addresses to personal mail only.
Refer to your media database to select which publications are likely to be interested in your announcement. It should be relevant to the readers of the targeted publication. Mailing the same story to everyone will probably get some results, but may not be the most cost effective or popular approach to your media management.
For example, a story on a breakthrough in op-amp technology will definitely be of interest to readers of a hi-tech semiconductor trade magazine. This same story, however, may need to be modified somewhat to improve its relevance to other markets.
For application in a consumer electronics magazine for instance, you could explain how your new device could help personal stereo developers reduce the size of their units, while improving the overall sound quality.
While in a personal computer magazine you could reword your story to explain how your device could make sound-cards a $2 option for every laptop or home PC user by the year 2020.
Stories are judged by their newsworthiness. The more newsworthy the story is, the better position it is given in the newspaper. Usually the most newsworthy story is placed on the front page, or in the news pages of the publication. Stories on the left page are generally considered more newsworthy than stories on the right page, and stories above, more newsworthy than stories below.
Media releases have a better chance of being published or "run" if they fall within the established style guidelines of a section within the target publication. In this case, style simply refers to the number of words per story in any section, of any publication.
It is acceptable practice to ring the publication to ask for this information. It is easier still to determine it yourself, by looking at previous issues. Try to restrict your release to the same length as the published stories. If more information is required, a journalist will soon call you.
Editors claim it is important for the media release to be double spaced on A4 paper, preferably with a wide left margin to provide adequate space for editing comments.
The headline should be brief and to the point, but don't waste too much time creating the perfect prose. In most cases it is rewritten by the sub- editor or editor.
The first paragraph should be thirty words or less and should encapsulate the main thrust of your story. Secondary details should be restricted to second and subsequent paragraphs. Limit one idea to one sentence and write using the active voice.
It also makes sense to present the ideas or points in their order of importance. This means that if the story is too long, the editor has the opportunity to simply cut information from the bottom of the story without the news angle being affected or requiring rewriting.
Your media releases will only be as good as the writer or freelance journalist employed to produce the story and it can sometimes be difficult to assess their writing ability objectively. This can be overcome with the assistance of a sub-editor.
Amongst other things, a sub-editor's role within a newspaper is to edit each story so it conforms to the one style. He or she is responsible for eliminating undue bias, correcting grammatical or spelling errors and for making the whole paper appear as if it was written by one person.
It may be possible to employ the services of a freelance sub-editor who already works in the IT industry. They are usually happy to help on an ad-hoc basis and in most cases charge minimal rates of between $20 and $30/page. Of course, their advice and invaluable education on communication skills does not need to be limited to just media releases.
Next time I will write about the standard categories of media releases and why it is important to differentiate between them.
Following feedback on recent columns, please note my updated use of the term media release, as opposed to press release. I admit media release has a more prestigious ring and I suppose many would feel this is important.