I was in TV news for a very long time. I don’t even want to say how long. In that unspeakable amount of time, trust me when I say I did pretty much every job in the newsroom, so I am well-versed on the challenges each position presents. I also know what it’s like to be completely overwhelmed by story pitches, how to tune out most of them and what used to make me stop and offer my coveted, albeit short-lived, attention.
- These days I work in PR, so I (kind of) now know the difference between media advisories and news releases. A media advisory is an invitation to an event and a news release is detailed information about an announcement. I guess I used to have a vague notion that these were different things, but they were kind of all the same to me. Plus, I didn’t care. So don’t sweat too much about what info should go where.
- Here is what I did care about: BREVITY. How much information can you pack into the fewest amount of sentences? Challenge yourself. I used to get hundreds of emails a day containing story pitches. I rarely read any of them in their entirety. I was just scanning for relevant bits.
- Because news people just glimpse most material, use bold to highlight the important parts. It works.
- My favorite media advisories put the relevant information in the following format somewhere on the page. It was usually the only information I was looking for, so I was pleased when I didn’t have to scavenge for it.
WHAT: An event.
WHERE: The address. (Even if you think everyone should know where something is, include an address or the nearest intersection. Many young photographers and reporters can’t go anywhere without a GPS. They’re usually not from here, so they really need a number and a street name. Not having those things gives them something else to argue with the assignment desk about. Those poor people already have it bad, so be their hero.)
WHEN: Date & time. (Chances are good at least one crew will be late, so plan to start 10-15 minutes later than whatever time is written here.)
- Beyond those elements, everything else is nonessential, but some extras are helpful. You can add what kind of visual elements can be expected at the event. The more eye candy, the better. Another nice touch is listing, in order, the names and titles of the speakers at your event.* That way, the reporter won’t have to ask for spellings or write them down. It also gives the crew an idea of how long they will be there. This is, again, where brevity is key. Many reporters and photographers (or the hybrid multi-media journalists, or MMJs) are turning several stories a day, so their time is really limited. Most rarely get lunch. In PR, I almost always get lunch. Lunch is really great.
I just realized I have so much to say on this topic that I can probably get to 10. But why give it all away now? (Plus, it reaffirms my point that no one will read anything if it’s too long.)
Stay tuned for more tips in my next blog.
*The editor of the blog, a veteran of the news business herself, would like to add the following: “OK, I know this is my thing, but how about a line asking that PR people fact check the spelling of the names and titles of the speakers? If so, many people are going to be relying on this information, it’s a real service that it is correct.”