How to write a media release

A media release – also known as a press release –  is the primary way for you to get your message into the hands of the media.

It’s a format that journalists and editors are familiar with and, even if you pitch your idea to them over the phone or email, most of them will still ask you to send them the information in the form of a media release.

So it’s vital that you send one that’s concise, contains all the information they expect, and is structured in a way that appeals to them.

Rookie writers of media releases tend to dump a lot of information into the document and assume that the journalist/editor is going to sift through it and pick out what they want. However, this can waste your time – and theirs.

You need a strong angle
It’s far more effective if your media release has a strong angle that’s relevant to the media outlet that you’re sending the it to.

But what exactly is an angle?

An angle simply refers to what makes the story newsworthy. What makes THIS story interesting and relevant enough that someone would want to read it (or listen to or watch it) today?

There are various angles you can take. And it’s best to pick the angle that’s going to be most interesting or relevant to your audience – or to the audience of that media outlet.

And, depending on the angle you choose, you would write your media release in a different way.

Why do journalists/editors love it when you pitch a strong angle?
Quite simply, because it makes their job easier. You might have an announcement or product or message that you want to promote, but while YOU might know your subject intimately, most of the journalists and editors you are sending your release to probably don’t know much about you, your product, or your message – if they know anything at all.

Furthermore, they are responsible for writing stories that are relevant, interesting and newsworthy to their particular audience. Remember, it’s not their job to sift through your information and promote you.

But if you can figure out an angle that makes it relevant or interesting to their audience, then you are being useful to them.

Too many people think that it’s okay to sending them a tonne of information – and then expect them to read through it and work out what they want to take from it.

It definitely doesn’t happen that way. They just don’t have the time.

So if you can find the angle or angles that are most relevant and topical to their audience, then you are significantly increasing your chances that your story is going to get coverage.

In short, you are making their lives easier for them.

So what kind of angles are there?
Here are some angles you can use for your news or message. In the course How to Write Media Releases, you’ll be provided with the exact templates you need to use for each of these angles.

The trends angle
This is a common and effective angle to use for many media releases. This can work if you identify a trend that’s interesting to many journalists and editors, which means it’s like that:

  • it’s happening right now – so it’s topical and timely, and
  • it’s likely to be affecting a lot of people. Obviously if it’s a trend it means that something is happening that is popular or gaining traction (like the Paleo diet trend, or the trends towards unaffordable housing in Sydney). The media likes to cover trends that affect a lot of people because that makes the story relevant to a wider audience. More people will relate to it and that means they are more likely to read or pay attention to the story.

If you can find an angle in your media release that identifies a trend, that may increase your chances of the media covering the story.

Let’s say your organisation might want to promote reading in schools. Your media release might open with evidence of the trend of teenagers having more screen time on devices these days compared to the previous generation – and that amount of screen time is impacting on their literacy levels. Then you could announce a program that encourages teenagers to read. 

If you’re a nutritionist or a business that offers Paleo products, then you might issue a release about an increasing number of people who are adopting the Paleo lifestyle as mainstream.

Event related
This angle focuses on a particular event. So you might create a media release about the City to Surf fun run. Or it might be about Red Nose Day. Or that Lady Gaga is playing at the Opera House. It’s generally about a particular day or week or month (like, say, Dementia Awareness Month).

This angle can works because it’s centred around a particular date, which makes it topical and newsworthy for that reason.

The angle in this media release is linked to some kind of milestone. That might be the 100th anniversary of the Opera House. Or the 1 millionth passenger on an airline. Or the 25th anniversary of a school. Or when a certain app surpasses 500,000 downloads. Or when 1000 patients have had brain transplants at a hospital.

Can you think of a significant milestone that would be worthy of media attention?

The star factor
This is when you use some kind of “star factor” in your media release. Like the fact that Beyonce wore your bikini. Or the Prime Minister is launching your book. Or that some famous person is going to be at your event.

Your bikini, or book or event may not be significant to the media but if you link it to a high profile person, that can often be the angle the media will find more appealing to cover.

One angle that you could use when you're writing a media release is a seasonal angle. That means that you are somehow linking your news or message or announcement to – you guessed it – the seasons.

So you might be a life coach launching a new program that you could link it to new year’s resolutions, a season at the start of the year where lots of people decide they are going to make changes in their lives.

Or you could be announcing some new features in a software program that helps you manage your finances. And, if it's springtime, you could develop a seasonal angle about “spring cleaning your finances” and streamlining them so that they’re easier to manage and understand.

It could be something as simple as lot of people getting the flu in winter if you are the health department trying to encourage people to get vaccinated.

This angle is when the announcement is culturally significant, economically significant, politically significant, scientifically significant – or significant in your particular industry.

“Firsts” are significant. Like if you are the first retailer who has introduced a virtual reality experience. Or the first time an airline takes passengers into space.

Or the first time scientists have discovered some kind of gene. Or the first business in your industry that voluntarily makes paid maternity leave available.

“Critical mass” is significant, like when you reach 100 retail stores across Australia. Or when the population of a particular area goes over a significant number in a certain area.

Or when one city surpasses another city is the “most liveable” or “most expensive” or “most visited”.

Announcements associated with awards can also be good angles for media releases. So if you win an award, it can be worthwhile to send a media release about that. It can also be useful to send a media release if you become finalist in an awards program.

Local angle
The local angle is – as it suggests – all about the local impact of an event or announcement. In many places, news can be very parochial so if you can find a local angle, then local media may find that appealing.

However, you can also localise a national angle. For example you might identify a local angle for new federal legislation that impacts young families. If your local demographic is likely to be affected in a big way, that might be a relevant angle. Whereas if your local area is dominated by baby boomers, it might NOT be a relevant angle.

A product media release is all about a new product. This might be an iPhone or a muesli bar or a new line of stationery.

Media releases can be written and issued in response or reaction to another event or announcement.

For example, if the government announces paid maternity leave then a women’s lobby group might release a statement on what they see is the positives and the shortfalls of the announcement.

Or if a book is released about the Paleo diet, then a national nutrition society may issue a release in response on the contents of the book, either outlining its good points or pointing out where it may not be offering sound advice.

Consequences can also be highlighted in a media release. Let’s say the department of transport announce a new train line to be built into the northern beaches of Sydney. Then a traffic congestion body or a lobby group of residents may issue a release that outlines the consequences of such a train line, outlining the areas that will be affected and the likely impact on the area.

Media alert
A media alert isn’t an angle. It’s a particular type of media release. And it’s generally used when you want to alert the media about an event where they need to be there. It is often used for events like photo opportunities. For examples you might send out a media alert that the Prime Minister is going to be somewhere on a certain date. Or that a media alert that Chris Hemsworth is going to be walking the red carpet on a particular opening night. Or a media alert that a train heading from Sydney to Melbourne wearing a big red nose (for Red Nose Day) will be departing from a certain platform on a certain date.

You send out a media alert so that the media can organise their photographers or videographers to come and capture vision of the event.

If you are sending out a media release on any of the above angles, remember that the media have certain expectations on what should be in the release. Each of the above angles are characterised by a specific structure so it can be useful to follow clear templates that show you what you need to include. These are all provided in the course How to Write Media Releases.

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