DIY Media release template and writing tips

As a former journalist I often get asked about the best way to gain media coverage.
Beyond having a good story or ‘yarn’ in the first place, the biggest favour you can do yourself is to have a well-written media release.
Journalists have always been time poor, but they are more busy than ever these days. As a result they are likely to give precedence over a well written media release, than a poorly written one. The easier you can make their job, the better the outcome is likely to be for you.
While different news outlets and countries have slightly different preferences in terms of format and presentation, the basics are usually the same. Here are some tips and a media release template based primarily on Australian news style.
Before you write your media release
Consider the following:
§  Why are you writing the release – what is your aim? 
§  Who will read your release – who is the audience?
§  What is your story – what is your newsworthy angle?
§  What does the audience think/know already about this topic? 
§  What do you want them to think/know?
§  What key messages must you include?
Let’s write
§  Ask yourself, “How are people going to relate to this and will they be able to connect?”
§  Avoid excessive use of adjectives and complex language – the simpler the better.
§  Spell out the numeral one to nine and use figures for 10 and above (unless used in association with $. For example ‘$3 million’ is okay, but ‘3 participants’ is not okay)
§  No numbers at the beginning of paragraphs (unless spelt out)
§  USE “million”, NOT “m” or “M”
§  Check consistent figures, facts and titles are used throughout the release
§  Use “per cent”, NOT percent, %, pc or p.c.
§  Check spelling and grammar, especially spelling of names
§  Check all other important details such as phone numbers and email addresses
§  Don’t use ampersands “&”, USE the word “and”. Unless it is bad of a brand or company name.
§  Don’t use exclamation marks
§  Watch apostrophe placement (singular/plural/possessive) and be careful of ‘it’s vs its’. It’s is short for ‘It is’. Its is possessive eg. The company held its annual general meeting
§  Do not mix past/present tense in the same sentence
§  Use ‘more than’ not ‘over’ with figures. Eg. ‘more than 700 jobs’
Review your media release
§  Watch your segues – this refers to the flow of the information. Make sure the paragraphs connecting and flow logically.
§  Use active voice not passive – passive speech uses words such as ‘being, been and be’, followed by a past tense verb. Often the word ‘by’ is in sentences with passive speech. The words ‘has’ and ‘have’ followed by a past tense word is not passive speech. Another alert can be that the person/organisation you are talking about is at the end of the sentence, or is not mentioned at all. In active speech the person/organisation is upfront at the beginning of the sentence and is doing something rather than having something done to them.
§  Negative Language – use positive language wherever possible, even if the subject is negative. Eg. ‘Entry will not be accepted without a ticket’ vs ‘Present your ticket to gain entry’
§  Key messages ­– key messages are one of the most important tools we use in all communication. They provide common direction, meaning and focus and ensures internal and external messages are consistent. These messages should be developed in advance for specific projects, initiatives and contentious topics or issues. Have no more than three key messages you want to get across and make sure you include them in your media release.
§  Read your media release thoroughly – identify any clumsy or long paragraphs. Re-phrase these, or break them into smaller, easier to read sentences. It sounds strange, but it’s great to read a media release out-loud and identify any sections you stumble on. These are the sections which need more work
§  A second pair of eyes always get someone to read your media release before finalisation. Preferably someone unfamiliar with the content so they can pick up on anything that doesn’t make sense.
§  Approvals finally, make sure anyone quoted or organisation mentioned in the media release has an opportunity to review and approve the content. Always ensure you get appropriate internal (your organisation) approvals as well.
Still not sure where to start?
If you’ve never written a media release before, you may like to use the below media release template.
The below template is a fictional media release, about how to write a media release.
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<use your own company letterhead, font and layout as appropriate>
MEDIA RELEASE                                                                                                                   
For immediate use
X Month Year
A world-renowned writing expert shared his secrets for writing a winning media release at the Australasian Writing Conference in Brisbane today (X Month).
The Writing Company, Chief Executive Officer, John Smith said anyone could write an effective media release.
“The good news is that you don’t need to be a journalist or a brilliant writer to create a good media release,” Mr Smith said.
Mr Smith said the headline and first paragraph were the most important parts of the release.
“The headline should be active, short and punchy – 10 words or less.
“Your first sentence must catch the reader’s attention, inform them what the story is about, and make them want to read the rest of the article. This sentence should not exceed 25-30 words.”
Mr Smith said another important component was having quotes from a reliable source.
“Quotes should be used for less factual, more personable information or subjective statements,” he said.
“The speaker must always be introduced with an indirect quote first, with their company name, job title, first name then surname, used in the first instance. They can then be referred to as Mr/Ms surname after that (as shown above).”
Mr Smith said indirect quotes should always be in past tense and be used to introduce a new ideas.
“A subject in a direct quote should be introduced first in an indirect quote and the punctuation must be clear.
“The first direct quote ends in a comma, then quotation marks, then Mr/Ms surname said, and then a fullstop, as shown above.
“Running quotes end only in a fullstop but the final running quote ends with a fullstop and quotation mark as shown above and here.” 
Factual information does not need to be included in direct or indirect quotes. After breaking up quotes with a block of text like this, you need to recognise the speaker again at the end of their quote, as per below.
“You must include the five Ws and H – what, where, when, who, why and how in order of importance, but try not to exceed one page in total,” Mr Smith said.
For more information contact first name surname, on phone number or email.
Photo/interview opportunities are available (Include this only if they are available).
Also include details of your website and any social media sites.

Kylie Fennell
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