About the Author

Who is Robyn
Robyn Braley is committed to helping Rotarians grow their clubs to become better equipped to help people who need help. He has led two club teams that were awarded RI PR Awards and served as the District 5360 PR Chair. He has been a Rotarian since 1999.

Rotary Speaker
Robyn draws from his experience as a Rotarian and as a Communications Professional to share ways to more effectively tell the Rotary story to your community. He starts by asking the questions, "Is your club ready to grow, and why does it matter?" The ultimate focus is on attracting new members.

He is available to speak at District Conferences and Rotary leadership training institutes. Content also applies to other not-for-profit organizations.

Free Content for #Rotary and NFP Use
Please use any posts for Rotary District or club Newsletters. Include the profile at the bottom of each article, Robyn's headshot and a link to this blogsite. Let him know and he'll promote it to his social media followers.

Contact him at robyn@unimarkcreative.com

Friday, 6 May 2016

Pitching a News Story Requires a Well Crafted Media Release. Why? Tips!

Dr. Bob Scott (Polio Plus) Interview with CTV
If you have ever pitched a story to the media, the first thing you will be asked is to send your story in writing. 

You must send a document that will get their attention and then draw them into the story potential.

Media specialists do not differentiate between mainstream, online or social media. When we do story placement campaigns, all media forms are automatically included in our strategies.

Let’s clarify meaning. A release should be called a “news” or “media” release, not a “press” release. The term “press” dates you and is not relevant today.

Crafting for Success

The purpose of a release is to generate TV, Radio and newspaper stories. But, there is more! It must also accommodate online distribution. A media release must be formatted for posting on websites, blogsites and online newsites.  

Parts of the release will be formatted for distribution by Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest and other social media platforms. They will link back to the full story uploaded to your website or online newsroom. 

If online news distribution services like Yahoo or Google News pick it up, your story may be carried by news services around the world. It must be done well. Your organization may want to pay for distribution by a service like PR NewsWire. They will distribute your story to 1,000s upon 1,000s of all types of media around the world.

Traditional Media

·         Newspapers
·         Radio
·         Television
·         Magazines

New Media

·         Social Media platforms
·         Online news sites
·         Electronic distribution
·         Enews into targeted groups

Must be well crafted. Explanations are below.

Why does this Matter?

A well crafted new release will pay dividends. In 2014 we managed a polio story that went global using traditional and new media distribution methods. The release is still online on the Canada Newswire and other sites.

Click here for online news release

This was the headline; Alberta Rotarians Trigger $2.1 Million for Worldwide Eradication of Polio by 2018.

Karl Herzog (R) does TV Interview for 2012 trek
Over the years I have generated 100s of stories about Rotary. We recently generated attention surrounding this story;

Ready for Adventure? Raise Funds for Nepal Earthquake Survivors. Join Rotarians organizing Rotary Trek to Everest Base Camp APRIL, 2017.

Release Goal

Let's say it again. A release is written with a single goal in mind; to get the attention or an editor, producer, journalist, blog publisher, or other decision maker.

·      You will have 1-2 seconds to engage them through your subject line.
·       You will have another 2-3 seconds to motivate them to read further based on your opening paragraph.
·       You will have 4-5 seconds, based on the body copy, to inspire them to assign a journalist to develop a story.

Am I being over dramatic? Not at all. Editors and producers are inundated by thousands of story ideas every day. You have seconds to cut through the clutter to get their attention and sell your story. 

Ultimately, media is a business. To build and keep their audience, news is chosen based on relevance. All forms of media need content that will engage their audience.

Your release may also carry your story directly to community leaders, government officials, collaborative partners or members of your constituency by email or other direct methods.

For Rotary or other service clubs and not-for-profits, the key message must answer three simple questions;

  • What difference will it make?
  • Who will care? 
  • Why should they care? 

Subject Line

The subject line should be brief, clear and to the point and a micro version of the key point. It is so important that I recommend writing it after the rest of the release is finished.

·         The subject line is the ultimate hook
·         The subject line must provide detail without being overly clever or long
·         Use a larger font and bold it
·         It should include key or ‘buzz’ words

Top of the Page

The top of the release is called the masthead. There is basic information that is common. 
  • Include your organizations logo for credibility
  • Include the date as all news must be timely
  • Name the city or town where the story originates  
  • Instructions like ‘For Immediate Release’ or 'Hold until (date)' must be prominent on the top left side

Lead Paragraph

The first sentence must draw the reader into the story. The ensuing paragraph is a summary and should be no longer than 3-4 sentences. Above all, it must answer the basic journalistic questions.
•           Who?
•           What?
•           Where?
•           When?
•           Why?
•           How?

Remember, a release is a sales tool. The paragraph must outline the brief details about what has happened, what is happening or is about to happen. It must draw the reader’s eyes further down the page.

Write, rewrite and rewrite it again. Read it out loud. Why? I’ve placed many stories with TV and had the news anchor read the lead paragraph word for word while visuals (“B” roll) of the story rolled overtop. Radio news has done the same.

Tell a story

Storytelling, in the world of brand building, is a primary way to focus your message around a central theme and create consistency. Your new story gives media people additional reasons to invest emotionally into your cause and expose it to their audience. 

Mike French tells Rotary Story

Body Copy

It is an old but true rule to live by. Write your story as a reverse pyramid with the most important information in the first paragraphs, and the least important at the end. In other words, if someone only reads the first two paragraphs, would they get the gist of the story?

  •      Avoid long sentences and paragraphs
  •      Use simple, meaningful words
  •      Avoid repetition and overusing "insider" or local jargon
  •      Do not pad the release with fluff. 
  •      Never use an acronym without explaining it. For example, RYLA would include (Rotary Youth Leadership Awards) in brackets.
  •      Never use adjectives like “good, better, best.” 
The temptation is to write the article. Don’t. Write a grammatically correct sales tool that simply answers, “And then what happened.” 

Having said that, I've had the main copy of new releases that I've written used in stories distributed nationally. They were copied word for word except for the addition of interview comments. 

Just the Facts, Mam 

The release must be factual. Only include the basics - events, times, services, people, targets, goals, plans, projects. And always remember, “why should anyone care?”

I’ve learned the importance of providing enough key information to support the story. Provide a “backgrounder” and “data” sheets that include more detailed information. 

Unless you are pitching an engineering story an engineering magazine, do not include any terms that not everyone will understand without research. Just include basic data. 

Finally, always close your release with a 2-3 sentence paragraph explaining your organization and what it does. Assume little or nothing is known about it or your cause. 

End the release with one of three designations. Any one of them will signal that you are a professional. 

  • The End
  • -30- Morris code
  • ### 


That brings us to length. Based on my experience, there is no set rule regarding length. Most releases are a single page and include only the basics. Remember, the goal is to place the story. However, many of mine are two pages and I know longer documents are sometimes successful. 

Formatting for New Media

As your release will be used extensively online, use basic protocols for writing website or blog copy.
·       Break the body copy up with sub headings
·       Include bullet points and/or “pullouts” of key information for those who will only do a quick scan of the article
·       Use numbers (1,2,3) rather than writing them out.
·       Provide links throughout to relevant support resources like videos
·       Upload the release to your website on a dedicated page for linking
·       Include separate documents with background information and data

Contact information

After all my years in the industry, I find it incredible that people still neglect to include a detailed list of contact information. 

Why? Well, if there is urgency to the story, the need for quick and easy contact information is obvious. 

Further, if a journalist doing a story has a followup question an hour before deadline, they need to be able to contact you NOW!

·         Name of the media relations/pr manager
·         Name of the lead spokesperson’s information
·         All pertinent telephone and email contact information.
·         Emails and relevant website addresses
·         Social media addresses

Robyn Braley is a marketing specialist, keynote speaker and writer. He is also a Rotarian who is passionate about Building the Rotary Brand. Robyn has led two teams that received the Rotary International PR Award. He has also served as the PR Chair for District 5360. 

Contact Robyn

Email: robyn@robyntbraley.com   Connect on LinkedIn Follow on Twitter: @rtbraley_rotary 

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