One of the most important tools that artists, venue owners and other businesses and organizations have to promote their endeavors is the media release. All types of media rely on news releases to provide story ideas. 

Often media will publish news releases in their entirety with their articles or in a special section, especially online. This is particularly common if the information is of interest to their audience, but can't cover the story because of limited time or personnel. A news release is appropriate any time you have news to share such as an upcoming event or the start or completion of a new project. However, they are not appropriate for general advertising. They do not need to be long. To increase the chance of them being published or leading to an interview/article, they should follow some basic guidelines.

First, and most importantly, they should be complete. This means they should read like a finished article and answer the basic questions: who, what, when, where, why and how. Do not confuse a news release with a story tip, a calendar submission or an advertisement or they will likely be discarded. The more work it takes to get them into a usable form, the less likely they are to be used. They should be written with full, grammatically correct sentences and at least two or three paragraphs. They rarely should be longer than one page.

Quotes from organizers or people involved will make them more interesting, as well as accompanying photographs or videos. Make sure photos include captions and credits or they probably won't be used.

When possible, submit media releases via email. Mailed or faxed releases have to be retyped to be useable, lowering the chances of publication. The closer your release is to a finished product, the more likely it is to be published. Use as little formatting as possible – in most cases unusual fonts, bold type, etc., must be stripped out before the text is usable for publishing. Use the title of the release in the subject line, rather than "media release."

Include your news release in the body of your email rather than as an attachment. That's one less step the recipient has to take to access the information, and the recipient won't need the same software to open an attachment. In addition, specific software often adds hidden characters that must be stripped out before the text is usable. 

While PDFs and Microsoft Word documents may be tempting so that you can control the look you want, they are notoriously difficult to copy and paste to a format that media prefers. If you are including photographs, do not embed them in these type documents or chances are, they will be unusable – they are often not easily extracted or are downsized to unusable resolutions in the process of embedding.

Well-structured media releases are made up of several basic parts, including a header, a title, an introduction, a body, a conclusion and company information.

The header: Your header should be at the top and tell the recipient who you are sending it to, who you are, what you are sending and when it would be relevant to publish. Generally this is covered by putting "For immediate release" or "To be released" and a date range in the upper left-hand corner. Just under that, include "To:", "From:" and "Re:".

  • "To:" may be general as "All area media" or customized to a specific person or department that would find the information most relevant.
  • "From:" would include your name and title and organization.
  • "Re:" would include a few words that describe the topic of the release such as "upcoming event" or "album release" etc.

The title of the media release comes next. Do not use capital letters for your title. Capitalize the first word only. The title should summarize the entire news release in as few words possible. Pull out key words from your release to use in the title to summarize your main points – that also make it easier for your target audience to find through search engines. 

A subhead can also be included. This would be a second line in the title with a bit more detail, such as the date of an upcoming event. For example, a title might be: "John Smith releases second album, 'The Joy of Music.' " A subhead could read: "Album release party Dec. 9 at Main Street Clubhouse."

Likewise, your introductory paragraph should begin with important keywords that summarize your news. Often the main section pages of media websites will display the first sentence or two of posted items and are are used by search engines to determine where they should be listed, so make the first few words count. The introduction for the title example above might begin: "Lynchburg rocker John Smith's new album 'The Joy of Music' released on Big Trends records will be available at his Dec. 9 concert with Blue Moon Band at Main Street Clubhouse."

Fill out your introduction with other important details. In the above example, this might include a description of the type of music on the album as well as credits for other performers, engineers, producers, artists or photographers involved in the album.

The next paragraph or two should add details that will let the audience know what to expect. Quotes from the people involved will make it more interesting. In our example, quotes could be from the artist, the label or the venue. Do not assume the reader knows anything at all about you or your organization. 

It's also best to avoid jargon or casual language. If industry-specific jargon is included, be sure to define it. Read some articles written about similar topics to get an idea of how they sound and try to mimic that. Many media websites will show the most popular articles of the day, which serve as ideal examples as they have already proven themselves to attract readers.

Your media release should end with information about how a reporter or reader could find out more information. Generally this will include websites, social networking page addresses, phone numbers and email addresses. Often additional paragraphs might include sections such as "About the artist," "About the venue" or "About the label." If your organization or business regularly sends media releases, these sections are often the same for every release you create. 

When website addresses are included, be sure to include the entire url, not just a link that says "click here for more information." If you do the latter and the media release is printed and shared, the address will be lost. Be sure all relevant contact information is included as well as sources for more information so that if a reporter or a reader wants to find out more details they easily can.

Once your media release is complete, you must get it in the right hands for it to be used. In our example, any entertainment or music industry publication may have interest in the information as well as radio or television programs and general media where the event is taking place. Don't forget to include other outlets that may have interest, such as the hometown papers of some of the people or organizations involved. To pique their interest, you might want to slightly alter your release for certain recipients, highlighting information that is of particular interest to them.

Media contacts can easily be found on their websites. Most will have general contact addresses, such as news@publicationname.com. However, in addition to these general addresses, you'll have a better shot at being published if you get it in the hands of an individual who often covers similar things, such as the entertainment writer or a DJ who hosts a show playing similar music. It's not a bad idea to include multiple individuals at the same publication or station as while one may throw it away, another may mention it, publish it or contact you to write a story or do an interview.

Finally, it is a good idea to have a media page on your own website where you can post your news releases. They will provide anyone on your site more information about your endeavors and may be found by media who you didn't think to send it to. They also serve as a historic documents for your efforts and let potential resources you want to work with know you are serious about doing your part in promoting your endeavors.

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