INFO SHEET: The media release
by Russ Grayson, updated May 2020.
A guide to writing your own
AS A MEANS for organisations to distribute information, the media release is an artefact of the old journalism of newspapers, print magazines, radio and TV that continues in the era of online media. It is old and perhaps a little tired, but it has not yet expired.
Characteristics of a media release
- it is no longer than one side, or at most one and a half A4 pages
- it carries a letterhead with the organisation’s name, website, Australian Business Number (if a formal organisation) and contact information, a ‘media release’ heading and a release date
- the release focuses on only a single main point
- it is written with short sentences
- only one idea per short paragraph
- the release includes quotes from asingle news source
- the most important message is placed in the opening paragraphs
- it avoids jargon, technical terms and less-common words unless aimed at a technical readership
- it carries contact information, especially a telephone number and email address, for a spokesperson who can comment further on its content
- it makes available a clear, in-focus photo with the subject occupying most of the frame.
Writing a media release
For brevity and focus, media releases follow the tradition of the news writing style. This places your key message in the first couple paragraphs and follows with detail in descending order of importance.
Doing this allows a publication to cut your story from the bottom, were it to merely republish your release, while retaining your main points. It also allows bloggers and journalists to quickly assess the topic, its relevance and its newsworthiness to their publication.
It makes for more lively reading if you provide quotes from a single spokesperson. Writers can use these to enliven their reporting by letting sources speak for themselves.
A media release answers six key questions — the five W’s and an H. The closer to the top of your release they are, the better… best of all within the first two or three paragraphs.
The questions your answer are:
- what — what is the topic of your media release? What is it about? when — when will/did it happen?
- where — where will/did it happen? who — who did/is to do it? Who or what is the person or organisation?
- why — why it whatever it is being done/was done? What’s the back-story?
- how — will it be/was it done?
This last question for a media release around community gardening might include funding sources and amount, how land was accessed, how community is involved, how it will be managed, how it will benefit the community and offer solutions to issues. Journalists responding to your media release might ask questions about these things.