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FAQ on Media Relations

FAQ on Media Advisories and Press Releases

FAQ on Media Advisories and Press Releases

 

What is the difference between a media advisory and a press release?

A media advisory announces an EVENT that is scheduled to take place in the future, which might be interesting for media to cover live (for example, a rally or World Carfree Day street fair). 

A press release informs reporters of newsworthy information other than a future event.  For example, it provides a description of an event that has ALREADY occurred, the results of a recent study or report (either one which your organisation conducted, or one to which you wish to react). 

When an event is announced by media advisory, the event should ALWAYS be followed up by a press release describing what occurred at the event.

 

Why do the templates have 2 contacts?

It is important to ALWAYS have 2 contacts, and there are several reasons:

  • Reporters work on deadline, so it is important that there is a back-up person to contact in case the first contact is unavailable
  • If you are doing something in connection with another organisation, it is important to have one contact from each organisation listed
  • If multiple members of the network are organising simultaneous actions (i.e. World Carfree Day events), there should be one contact from your organisation and one contact from WCN-ICC

One contact should be the person appointed by your organisation to be the spokesperson, the other should be the project coordinator or a contact person from a partner organisation or the WCN ICC (depending on what is most relevant).  All contact persons should have the same talking points, to keep the message consistent (see "How do we respond to press inquiries?" for more information).

 

What software should I use for press releases?

PageMaker and other layout programs can be better for press release design.  If you have them and choose to use one, it is important to print your document to Portable Document Format (PDF) before sending it to reporters via email or posting it to your Web site, in case a receipting or visitor to your Web site does not have the software program you used to create it.  It is also good practice, though not necessary, to convert MS Word releases to PDF.

 

How should I distribute press releases?

Press releases should be sent via email to TARGETED reporters after a telephone call.  Mass faxes and emails to reporters with whom your organisation does not have an established relationship are often fruitless.  Using such email lists often results in undeliverable messages to your inbox due to outdated addresses, routing of your message to SPAM boxes, flagging of your address to block further messages and irritated reporters.  Unsolicited faxes are often ignored, are illegal in the US without previous telephone permission and are a waste of paper.  More information about targeting reporters, telephoning reporters and sending press releases via email follows.

 

How do I establish relationships with reporters to ensure coverage?

It is important to target reporters.  Scan the media for stories related to your organisation's work, particularly written by the reporters and/or featured in/on the media outlets represented on the press contacts page.  Also scan local media where your organisation is located.  Such scanning should be done weekly.  Keep a log of what reporters are covering, and record the contact information of reporters who cover issues related to the work of your organisation.  When an item for media advisory or press release arises, refer to your log and target the reporters who have recently covered similar issues.  Following this protocol, you will often contact the same reporters regularly.  After several contacts, you will begin to establish a relationship and the reporter may begin contacting you to ask for comments on related news.

 

How should I pitch a story to a reporter?

First, telephone the reporter. 

 

Here is a script:

Hello Ann, this is ___________ from ____________.  Are you on deadline?

 

If yes:

I'm sorry to bother you.  Would you mind if I email you with a story idea?

                If the reporter asks for short detail, follow script for "No/yes, but I have a minute"

 

If No/yes, but I have a minute:

I read your story/have been reading your series on ___________ and thought that your readers might be interested in _________________ (a VERY short-1 sentence description of the project, programme, event or other subject of your release/advisory).  Can I email you the press release/media advisory?

 

If you receive and answering machine:

Hi __________, this is _____________ from ____________.  I read your story/have been reading your series on ___________ and thought that your readers might be interested in _________________ (a VERY short-1 sentence description of the project, programme, event or other subject of your release/advisory).  I will be sending the press release/media advisory via email.  You can contact me at __________ to discuss your interest in the story, otherwise I will follow up with you on ___________ (state a specific date that is 1-3 days in the future).

 

If you the reporter agreed that you might email him, or if you followed the answering machine script: send email immediately.  Follow the relevant script.

Email script #1: use in case reporter was on deadline, agreed to receive email but heard no further information on the subject of the release/advisory:

 

Dear __________,

For female reporter: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me on the phone today.  I am writing to follow up on our conversation.

For male reporter: I appreciate you speaking with me on the phone earlier today.  I am writing to follow up on our conversation.

 

I read your story/have been reading your series on ___________ and thought that your readers might be interested in _________________ (a short-up to 3 sentences description of the project, programme, event or other subject of your release/advisory).  The attached press release includes further detail as well as contact information for myself and (contact #2 name, title and other relevant description).  I will follow up with you (specific day that is 3 days to one week in the future) to discuss your interest and answer any questions. 

 

Email script #2:  use in case the reporter took time to listen to the short description of the subject of your release on the phone:

 

Dear __________,

For female reporter: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me on the phone today and for your interest in (subject of your release/advisory). 

For male reporter: I appreciate your interest in (subject of release).

 

The programme/project/event. (short description of subject of release/advisory-up to 3 sentences).  The attached press release/media advisory provides further details as well as contact information for myself and (contact #2 name, title and other relevant description).  I will follow-up with you on (specific date 3 days to one week in the future OR the same date mentioned in the telephone message if you left one) to discuss your interest in the story and answer any questions.

 

Next, make a follow-up telephone call in accordance with your email message.  Make this call on the specific date listed, no earlier and no later.  Follow this script:

 

Hi _________, this is ____________ from _____________.  Are you on deadline?

 

If yes:

I was just calling to follow up with you on (subject of release).  When would be a good time to discuss it?

 

If given a time:

Great, I will call you then.  (Follow through!  Reporters are busy.  Call when they ask you to, or you will lose the opportunity to speak with them).

 

If reporter says s/he will call you:

When can I expect your call? ... Thanks, good bye.

 

If reporter declines story:

Are you the correct person to contact for stories related to (nature of the work of your organisation), or can you direct me to another reporter there who might be a better contact?  Thank you, bye.

 

 

We don't have a Public Relations Director/Media Coordinator/etc. at our organisation.   Whom should we use as the contact?

Choose someone who speaks well and is in the office regularly.  If this is not the same person who prepares press releases, it is important to provide the person with copies of all releases and talking points to avoid inconsistent messaging and/or a situation where the contact does not know the necessary information. 

 

How do we respond to media inquiries?

Before distributing an advisory or press release, agree on the organisation's message and prepare talking points for all contacts.  Follow the same procedure whenever the media is covering an issue on which you might be asked to comment.  It is important that you have a prepared message and that the message remains consistent. 

 

On occasion, you may be asked to comment on a breaking news item before you are prepared.  In this case, say:

This is certainly significant in our opinion.  We are currently (analysing the

statement/reviewing the facts/etc.)  I will get back to you as soon as possible.  Do you have a deadline?

 

If yes,

I will call you no later than (state specific time that is at least one hour before the deadline).

 

How should we handle media advisories/press releases and inquiries related to simultaneous actions of multiple WCN members?

In the event that WCN is encouraging simultaneous actions of all members (i.e. on World Carfree Day and in conjunction with international campaigns), the WCN-ICC will provide member organisations with a template advisory or release that provides standard network wide information and space for the member organisation to fill in locally relevant information. 

 

In the event that two or more member organisations are cooperating in an action or project or one organisation is partnering with the WCN-ICC (i.e. Towards Carfree Cities Conference), the partners should write the release or advisory cooperatively.

 

In the event that WCN-ICC is commenting on a local or national event, the release will be written cooperatively between WCN-ICC and members affected. 

 

In all cases of cooperative releases, all contacts should agree on messaging and have access to the same talking points.

 

 

 

 
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 This page was last updated 14 May 2007