Things you can do to catch eyes in your media release

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Getting noticed is hard. When you have exciting news to share, you want everyone to be as enthusiastic about it as you are. Right?

The problem is that any number of the 142,000+ small businesses in Maine, or 8,000+ non-profits in Maine, or dozens of State agencies and departments, or hundreds of elected officials on a local, state, or regional level might also have exciting news to share.

Getting noticed is a challenge. And there are good ways to get noticed, and not so good ways to get noticed. Let me give you a personal example of a “not so good way” to get noticed, related to a proofreading error I made 11 years ago that still sits with me.

I was working in the Maine Governor’s Office, and it was common practice in those days to send out his weekly public schedule to media. It was the type of day when 80 things were being juggled all at the same time, so I quickly put the schedule together, spellchecked it, formatted it for e-mail, and quickly checked it for errors. (Did I say I did this quickly?) Then I quickly hit send. WELL, one of the events was a ceremonial signing of a bill clarifying snowshoe hare trapping. Essentially the bill made the permitting of snowshoe hare trapping more clear. It was a good thing to do, and the governor was holding a ceremonial signing of the bill, which was nothing out of the ordinary. To the best of my memory, it only took about a half-hour for more than a dozen e-mails to come in from journalists all over the state correcting me on my error – some more playfully than others. It seems as though I had replaced the word “hare” with “horse.” And there is no such thing as a snowshoe horse. About a week or two later, the late Mike Brown even wrote in his syndicated column that I don’t know a hare from a horse. Couldn’t I at least get points for spelling horse correctly? (Mike and I later had a good chuckle about the whole thing in the halls of the State House, but he still didn’t give me points.)

So how do you stand out? How do you get noticed…correctly? Here’s 5 easy ways to get you started.

  1. Proofread. A poorly written release is one thing. A poorly written release with errors is quite another. Check and double check your work. Spellcheck doesn’t catch everything. I learned the lesson the hard way 11 years ago…check and recheck your work.
  2. One of the most obvious things to do to stand out is simply having a relationship. The busy assignment editors and reporters of the world will be much more likely to take note of your e-mail and follow up call if they already know your name.
  3. Don’t Punt the Headline. Thanks to Twitter and Facebook, we’ve all been trained to write in a concise, eye-catching way. Put that to use with your headline. Just as an everyday Twitter user will scroll past something that doesn’t catch their attention immediately, a journalist may do the same with your e-mail. Your headline can help “sell” your story. Use it effectively.
  4. Answer the necessary questions in the first paragraph. If your first paragraph cannot answer the who, what, when, where, why and how, then rewrite it. I’ve seen too many media releases that take the first two paragraphs to try and build suspense and set a scene before getting to the point. Hook their attention first with facts.
  5. Don’t write a media release that is incomplete. Picture your story in a newspaper, and try and include some things you might see in print. Quotes from people involved, a photo, or maybe some background information to complete the release can go a long way. Just don’t put those extras in the first paragraph.

Follow these five tips to stand out with your media release. Don’t attempt to stand out by confusing a horse with a hare. It’s awkward. Trust me.

If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail me anytime at dan@sutherlandweston.com.