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Press release or media release?

Which term do you use and prefer?

Traditionally, people would send an announcement to the newspapers to share news so it became known as a press release.

With the introduction of radio and TV, press releases had more uses than just newspapers; now, if you have news to share you may send it to any combination of newspapers, magazines, radio, TV, websites and newsletters.

The term media release covers all forms of media so seems more appropriate in most circumstances now than a press release. I certainly consider that I write media releases, but I am comfortable talking to people who still use ‘press release’.

I wonder if age or work background impact much on which name people use – what do you think?

Timing a media release

A media release is generally an announcement of something you consider newsworthy enough the media may tell your story. So when do you tell the media?

There is no simple answer, but there are some guidelines depending on what type of release you are sending out.

If your release is announcing something that has happened (e.g. “we won an award”)

  • send it out ASAP

If your release is about an upcoming event (e.g. “our school fete is on the 9th May”)

  • don’t send it until you know all the important facts (especially dates, times and place, or the name, address and URL of a new business)
  • send it early enough for the media to use it. For example, if the local paper is printed on Tuesday don’t send the release on the Tuesday afternoon immediately before the event. Note that some media outlets have a much longer lead time than others – some magazines need things months in advance. Likewise, consider their time requirements before sending it too early – a local paper or website doesn’t need to know about a small event 3 months in advance, they’ll just forget it if you tell them too soon!
  • include a release date. That is, at the top of the media release, write “Not to be released until 1 June 2008” or similar so the media know it is advance warning

In addition, if your release is about the launch of a new website

  • don’t send the release until there is something on the website! Sending the media to  ‘coming soon’ page won’t impress them and it is less likely that they will publish your story. The site doesn’t have to be complete, but have a welcome page that introduces the business/site, some contact details and has a look that complements the final look – this is much more professional and enticing. If the site is near completion, you may even send the media a link that shows them what the site will look like even if it isn’t yet available at the final URL

If your release isn’t time critical, then you can send it at any time of course! But I would question its newsworthiness if it really has no time frame attached..

The timing doesn’t have to be hard – just use a little common sense really.

Happy writing!


Who reads a media release?

Unlike a lot of business writing I do, media releases are not written for the end user.

What does that mean? Well, usually if I write some webcopy, an article or a flyer, I write it in a way that appeals to the consumer of that business. So I would write words to the effect of ‘this will solve your problem’.

With a media release, I am writing to a journalist or other media person who may or may not be part of the business’ target audience. Of course, I am writing to the journalist but in a way that will appeal to their readers/viewers/listeners. So it is usually written in the third person such as ‘this will solve the problem for your readers’

Aiming a media release at your target market won’t work; it needs to catch a journalist’s attention and then be used as the basis of their article. Think of it this way – if you read a company’s website or flyer, you expect them to use ‘you’, ‘your’, and so forth; when you read a newspaper article, it will be one step removed and will not refer to ‘you’ at all.