Saturday, June 12, 2010

Media Relations: Press Releases and Targeting Reporters

Your social enterprise has a cool event or story it wants to share with the world. Perhaps the first conference of African women entrepreneurs is happening in Tanzania on June 27th and you want to tie in an event from your start-up on women artists in with coverage on the symposium. Or perhaps one of your board members will participate in the symposium and you want to let the media know she would be a good go-to person for quotes or commentary in an article they are already drafting about the event. In either case, you will be addressing your intent to the media via press release.

What is a press release?
A press release is a statement directed to the media about a story, a spokesperson, an event, a product, or a service. It's a way of attracting publicity around a story. A press release is sent to members of the media that cover that particular beat, or topic. You would not send a press release about a new pharmaceutical drug to a reporter in the Daily News or Sunday News that writes on politics; you would send it to the reporter who covers health related topics.

The format of press releases differ depending on the intent of the press release but most are no longer than one page. Templates also differ and you can find many examples of press release templates online. Here's what a typical press release authored at my firm would look like:



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (in caps): Contact: Contact's name
DD/MM/YYYY Phone: xxx-xxx-xxxx

Use A Catchy Headline Here:
A byline is the line after the headline which elaborates on the story. Not needed for all press releases. Usually italicized.

Location Here, Tanzania (the location will be where the story, person, event, etc. is located) - This is the body of your press release. Paragraph one should include all important information. Reporters are succinct and straight-to-the-point people; they need to be able to get the gist of what your story is in the first paragraph.

You can go into depth on the story here and include quotes from any spokespeople from your start-up, if appropriate and if it adds to the story. Include the how, etc. Write in the active voice: Amy sings sad songs versus The sad songs are sung by Amy, which is in the passive voice and unnecessarily long-winded.

The last paragraph should be a few sentences about the start-up sending out the press release (you).


Make sure you do your research and identify the key media members for your story. Ask them how they prefer to be contacted and honor the request. If the reporter wants you to email them the story don't call them; if they want it via fax don't email it to them. Create an Excel spreadsheet and input the information for all reporters into it including:

* First Name
* Last Name
* Title
* Beat (Topic they write on)
* Outlet (Are they writing for Daily News or are they a producer for a radio show on RTD?)
* Phone number
* Email address
* Fax number
* Preferred method of contact

Please note: don't send a press release a day or two days before a story is to take place. If your start-up is scheduling a conference or an important event or if they are participating in an event, make sure you send out the press release ahead of time. Reporters have deadlines on stories and don't appreciate being asked to follow through a story without having enough time.

Furthermore, if a reporter decides to write a story or interview your spokesperson, have all important information available. Let them know you are at their disposal. You don't want a reporter to ask you for the contact information of your start-up's spokesperson and you don't have that information on hand.

Media Relations 101: Getting media coverage.

Follow Stephanie on Twitter: @radiomorillo

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