Steven R. Van Hook, PhD
if not most start-up companies and nonprofit programs will have limited
or no budgets for advertising.
Even larger organizations
will appreciate the value of a well-placed news report promoting their
products and services.
Free media coverage is not so hard to get if you
are clever about how you approach it and frame your story well.
And it all starts with
a well-prepared media release and an enticing news hook.
First we should
consider some of the pros and cons of working with the media, as compared
to paid advertising. On the
A story in a
reputable medium gives credibility to your message with an implied
Your story can
reach thousands and even millions if you win wide media play.
Your news can
spread in an instant through online and broadcast media.
And -- most
importantly -- all this coverage can be for free!
On the downside:
You cede control of your story
angle to reporters and editors.
You have no say in when or if your
You cannot dictate where a story
is placed in a publication or newscast.
There is no certainty you will
connect with the target audience you hope to reach.
As you are framing your story for a
media release, put yourself in the mind of a reporter or editor. What
would be interesting to you? More importantly, what is interesting to the
audience the medium serves?
Consider the five Ws they teach in
journalism school: Who, What, When, Where, and -- most essentially -- the
Also keep in mind some news hooks that
especially catch an editor's eye:
news happening *right now* -- like a street demonstration
Proximity: a story
important to your local community
that impacts hundreds or thousands of people
against west, right versus left, good battling bad
Oddity: things that
are unusual, such as a two-headed puppy
Sex: there's a reason
sex scandals get such headlining media play
Emotion: heart tugs
of a family reunited, a kitten saved, a child cured
newsworthy celebrity or high-ranking official
Suspense: will there
be victory or defeat, life or death, a mystery solved
Progress: the world
moving in a better direction with innovations and discovery
As you begin to format your media
release, you can find a template suggestion here:
Keep in mind that editors may see
hundreds of media releases a week. You have to pass a five-second test (or
less), or into the trash bucket you go.
For a favorable first impression,
ensure you have an attractive layout free of typos. Have an eye-catching
headline, and a brief summary sentence covering the gist of your release.
You may want to wisely put your
contact information at the bottom rather than the top, unless there is
something familiar or prestigious about who you are. Why waste a second on
detail that can wait?
You can find lots of tips
professionals who do this for a living with free articles on
media relations. Here's a sample of some of their best:
Get a book on Associated Press
writing style and respectfully use it.
Tell your story *as* a story.
Everyone loves a good tale of challenges overcome and a happy ending.
Don't put too much information in
your releases. Focus on a handful of talking points and stick to them.
But still have plenty of
background data available if a reporter requests it.
If you can't think of any reason
to send out a media release, check this reading with
55 ideas for newsworthy topics.
Be sure to watch the video
below to see more tips on crafting a media release.
Once you have your release finely honed and ready to pitch, here are some
suggestions on how to
You can find more
articles on fundamentals of marketing and communications on pages here,
and on our sister website
And visit our YouTube video libraries on
Communications & Business, and
taught MBA and undergraduate marketing
communications courses for colleges and universities in the
United States and abroad for more than a decade, and
developed more than a dozen courses with an
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