Media advisories (sometimes called media alerts) and press releases are often confused, but if you understand the purpose of each, you can be a rockstar in getting the media attention you desire and deserve.
Why Use Them
Media advisories and press releases are the industry norm for alerting the media to events or news your business wants to share, and it’s your ask for some sort of coverage. Coverage can be anything from a write up or mention in the local newspaper to a full on-air interview on the news. In a nutshell: you use them to get publicity.
Media Advisory: The purpose of a media advisory is to invite the media to an event, such as a grand opening or presentation. The intention isn’t to have the advisory published, but to alert the media that the event is happening and to try to get on their radar, and ultimately, their schedule for coverage.
Press Release: A press release informs the media about some news your business may have, such as a new hire or a recently won award. Ideally the media outlet you send the press release to will either publish the press release or, better yet, reach out for an in-depth story.
Let’s face it, media outlets are busy. Don’t over complicate things. (Seriously, your alert will just be deleted.) Both media advisories and press releases should be enticing, concise, and informative. Keep both snappy and limit the length to one page.
Media Advisory: Label it as such at the top of the page and follow it with contact info for the person the media outlet can reach out to for more information. This is followed by a headline that announces the event and can be followed with a clarifying subhead. The body begins with the location, and is followed by a summary of what the event is. The most important part is then to break out the details of the event in easily digestible bites: Who, What, When, Where, Why/notable details in programming. Throw in a quote or clarifying paragraph below for good measure and give a brief background of the host business at the bottom with links for more info (website).
Press Release: Besides tweaking the headline to be a bit more captivating, a press release follows much the same format as a media advisory, with the main difference found in the body. Usually a bit longer than a media advisory, a press release goes into greater depth, divulging more information. It should always, always, always include at least one quote that the media contact can pull in the event they do a write-up/give coverage.
To Whom and How to send
Super, you wrote a killer media advisory or press release. Now, how do you distribute it to the right people in the right way? First, you need to analyze which media outlets would be interested in your event or news.
The worst thing you can do for media relations is to blanket send—if you send something that isn’t relevant to a particular contact it’s not only annoying, it’s insulting, and you can probably kiss future coverage goodbye.
Make sure who you are sending it to has an interest in what you are sharing with them. If it’s an announcement about something in the healthcare industry, don’t send it to the education editor! Also keep into account geographic relevance.
Once you do that, copy and paste your press release or media advisory into the body of an email. (Be sure to check guidelines as some media outlets may request that you also attach it.) In the subject line state what it is (press release or media advisory) and use a catchy version of your headline that would entice a busy reporter or editor to open your email.
As I have personal relationships with a lot of media outlets, I like to personalize my emails and open with a brief tease about how or why my news pertains to them, or suggest a specific story or department of coverage it may be appropriate for. These are busy people, remember. (I know; I was one of them.) Make sure you’re respectful of their time by making it as easy as possible to get the information you want to share.
Media Advisory: Send this puppy out a few weeks or (at least) a week before the event and follow up a day or two before as a reminder.
Press release: If the release is a follow-up to an event, send it out soon after the event is over. If it isn’t tied to any specific event and is more of an announcement, send it out when relevant.
For both, be aware of publication deadlines.
By understanding the difference between a media advisory and press release and the details of who, how and when to send them, you should be raking in the publicity in no time. And if you aren’t, don’t worry too much; the media doesn’t always bite. Just keep trying.