The Media Alert

A media alert alerts the media to an upcoming event (press conference, grand opening, groundbreaking, significant speech, photo op, etc.) You prepare a media alert to notify assignment editors of a newsworthy event, and to encourage them to schedule it for coverage by their reporters. You always call the day before the event to confirm that they are planning to cover.

A media alert is always one page, brief but compelling, and sufficiently informative to arouse interest, often without giving away all the details of the story, which may be held for release until the day of. It should make clear that there are visual opportunities for TV cameras and print photographers.

Don't use a press release to do the job of a media alert. A press release does not announce an upcoming event. New PR students often make this mistake. A press release is always wrong if it says something like, "Mayor Jimmy Cline will appear at a press conference today where he will announce..."

Remember, the press release you've written for that event will be distributed at the press conference -- the reporters are already there in the room with you. If for some reason you want the press release to reference the press conference, then you may say that "Mayor Cline attended, in a chef's cap and apron" -- "attended," past tense.

Again, keep these distinctions in mind:

  • You would never distribute a media alert at a press conference -- the media is already there with you! They got the media alert a few days ago.

  • You would not need to say the event "will happen" in a press release, which is written in the style of news coverage, as an event that has already taken place.

    The press release is the story you would like to see in tomorrow's paper, written by a reporter covering the event. Its lead is the sound bite you'd like to hear on the afternoon drive-time radio... and on the TV news tonight. If you could have your wish, the press release is the story that would be featured on the front page of tomorrow's newspaper, with a big fat photo. It is always written from the point of view that the announcement has already taken place, or that the news event is now ongoing.

    So the rule is, future tense for media alert, distributed on Monday... past tense for press release, distributed at the event on Friday.

    When you do the Media Alert Assignment, for the student association press conference on Jan. 14, you may make up any necessary information that you may need to do the job ... a rare opportunity to go "off-script" in this course.

    Media Alert Format

    (leave room for your letterhead)
    Media Alert
    Monday, March 6, 11am


    Mayor Jimmy Cline, together with Dr. Arnold Bevins, Commissioner of Economic Development and Bernard J. Haskins, Chief Architect and CEO of the architectural firm of Ogilvy, Wolfe and Hubben


    The mayor's economic development team will make a major announcement concerning development of land formerly owned by the county at Two Day Road and I-69, just within the city limits.


    The announcement will be made on site, on the north end of the parcel. Those using I-69 exit 405 (approaching from north or south) will see the colorful green and white tent on the left (south) side of the ramp past the toll booth. Those approaching from town on Two Day Road will see the tent on their left. Parking will be clearly marked. Note: no electric power is available on site.


    Monday, March 6, at 11:00 a.m. A luncheon buffet will be served from 11:00 to 11:30. The press conference will begin at 11:30 promptly. The mayor and other participants will be available for live TV and radio interviews beginning at about noon.


    Mayor Jimmy Cline was reelected on a platform of development. His "Blueprint for Progress" included plans for expansion of light industry and retail commerce from the Orizon River to the interstate. This press conference will be the first in a series of important announcements concerning progress in this effort.


    Press office: Jennifer Burton, Press Secretary, or Hugh Stevens, Depty. Press Secretary, at 309-345-8900