Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Alert the media

Shrinking newsroom staff is dramatically affecting the number of camera crews available from any given media outlet, and that means it's harder than ever to secure coverage for your event.

So how do you maximize your chances of getting air time? Well, start by using a media alert--not a release--to generate interest. Unlike releases, alerts leave a little to the imagination and instead provide only enough information to pique the media's interest. Since you don't give everything away, media are more likely to attend to make the story their own and secure their own footage. There are no guarantees, of course, but a professional, complete media alert is less likely to get lost in the shuffle since it commands a higher sense of urgency than a release.

How do you structure your media alert to provide enough--but not too much--information? Here are the key things to focus on:

- Include a media contact name, phone number, and email address. Be sure that this is someone who can answer calls promptly and who, for continuity, will be at the media event.

- Just say "Photo/B-Roll Opportunity" in the headline. That will send a signal to the assignment editor that this isn't just another news release.

- Create a subhead that sums up the event and what's in it for any media who attend

- Break up the rest of the alert into four sections:

  • "Who": The people participating in your media event. Lead with those most likely to draw cameras (elected officials, celebrities, etc.). Don't assume the media will know who they are, however--include their title of a brief description of who they are
  • "What": This is the meatiest section. Describe what's going to happen and why it's important (from a news value standpoint--NOT why it's important to your organization). Be complete but concise--not more than a paragraph or two.
  • "When": Be specific--day, date, time (and if it's for national/regional media, include time zone).
  • "Where": Again, be specific. Provide an address and room number/name. It doesn't help you if a camera gets to the building but misses the ribbon cutting because they didn't know where to find you.
Keep the whole thing to one page. The goal is to make it glanceable and to provide just enough information, but not too much. If you find yourself tempted to include a quote from a spokesperson, you're trying too hard.

Preparing a media alert doesn't preclude you from writing a release, too, but you'll only send the release after the event to accommodate cameras that couldn't get there. Use the two hand-in-hand, and you'll make the most of your chances to get coverage.


Jon Swerens said...

Also: Do not assume the media are mean, biased or idiotic if they do not show up. And if you think so, don't call the media and tell them that.

This actually happens, and trust me, it doesn't encourage us to cover your event next time.

An organization cannot just rely on One Big Event to garner all the media coverage it wants. Some bigger story may preempt it. Instead, plan on publicizing everything, from board appointments on up. This way, you'll be sure to get your group in front of as many eyes as possible.

Justin Clupper said...

I emailed this to about five different PR friends today. And I'm getting ready to talk about it in my blog.

GREAT tips. Thanks Anthony!

Business901 said...

Excellent Tips! I like the idea of a media alert.

To add to your comments, I think people forget to remember what the media cares about is their audience. Demonstrate the importance to that group and your chances of success will increase.