A media alert is used to publicize events to the press ahead of time. It serves as an invitation to an event, encouraging a reporter to attend and giving sufficient notice for the reporter to schedule their attendance. Media alerts are written and sent before events.
A press release is more comprehensive than a media alert. Think of press releases as a way for you to write the article for a reporter. Reporters often take directly from press releases for their articles, making them extremely important. Press releases are often sent after an event.
Where Do I Start?
E-mail STAND! Whenever you have an event, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance in reaching out to the media. The STAND Communications Team can help you ensure that your event doesn’t go unnoticed by the media.
How Should I Format Alerts and Releases?
Media Alerts must answer the questions: Who, What, Where, and When. These questions can be used to frame the entire Alert. Only give the basics; reporters don’t have time to read more.
Press Releases answer the “W” questions, too, but they are more comprehensive. Press releases need to be in AP (Associated Press) style, meaning they begin with the most important aspect of an event, and end with the least important. For examples of this style, you can look at articles in any professional newspaper or an AP stylebook.
Reporters are trained to read and write in this style, so sending press releases in AP format makes it easier on them. Include quotes from speakers at an event, or from a member of the chapter about the event. Reporters might put these quotes in their article. Think of a press release as writing a story.
Give reporters the angle they’re interested in. Media alerts and press releases should focus on information that makes an event relevant to a specific community and to a reporter; you can usually do this by putting a “local spin” on the story. Also, make sure you clearly convey the point or ask of the event and what you’re trying to accomplish – you want this to be included in all coverage.
Don’t stress about length. Length is not a factor for releases or alerts, so don’t stress! Releases and alerts are often less than a page, so don’t make them too long.
Provide contact info. Always include the contact information of one person from your chapter. Reporters will often follow-up on alerts and releases, and it’s important that they have a go-to person. Give names, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses.
Who Should I Send Them To?
Send Alerts and Releases to as many people as possible. They should be sent to the news desks at all potential media outlets. They should also be sent to specific reporters who may be interested, i.e. Education reporters or reporters who have covered community activism in the past. It doesn’t hurt to send to multiple places at one outlet.
Locating Outlets. To find the contact information for media outlets in your area, you can go to www.congress.org. Click the link for Media Guide at the bottom, and type in your zip code. Also, colleges usually have Media Relations departments that may be able to help student organizations contact media outlets. Also, the STAND Communications Team may have a database of media contacts ready for you, so be sure to e-mail email@example.com every time you have an event!
Types of Media Outlets
Community Papers. Community newspapers should be the major focus of every chapter, as they’re most likely to cover student events.
Example: Hoffman Estates, a Chicago suburb with 40,000 people has a weekly community paper called The Hoffman Estates Review. It often features information about local students.
Local Papers of Record. Local newspapers of record have a higher circulation than community papers, and they should be the next focus for student activists. These papers often have reporters that focus on school districts or colleges in specific communities.
Example: The Daily Herald also serves Hoffman Estates, along with about 90 other Chicago suburbs.
Radio, Television, and Blogs. For information on these types of media outlets, click here.
How Should I Send Them?
Email. Email is easy and cheap, so all alerts and releases should be emailed to every contact you have. Never place a release/alert in an attachment. Instead, copy and paste it into the actual text of the email, being careful to ensure that there are no serious formatting problems after it has been pasted. The subject line is key. The subject should be the most exciting aspect of your event, i.e. “Hundreds of student anti-genocide activists lobby for Darfur”
When Should I Send Media Alerts and Press Releases?
See “Media Outreach Timeline” located here.