Public Relations Writing: Lesson #2 - p. 8

The Media Alert

    It's useful to study a media alert at this stage of the game, to help you understand the function of a press release. By knowing what the press release is not, you can better comprehend what it is.

    You prepare a Media Alert to notify assignment editors of a press conference, or any other event that you believe will generate news for the media to cover. It is always one page, brief but compelling, and sufficiently informative to arouse interest, usually (but not necessarily) without giving away the story. It should make clear that there are visual opportunities for TV cameras and print photographers.

    New PR students often make the mistake of writing a press release that announces an upcoming press conference, instead of "reporting" on the press conference. Keep these distinctions in mind:

    • A media alert will trumpet an upcoming event (press conference, grand opening, groundbreaking, significant speech, photo op, etc.). Naturally, you would never distribute a Media Alert at a press conference -- the media is already there with you!
    • A press release is written in the style of news coverage, as the story you would like to see written after your media event has taken place. Its lead is, essentially, 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. Thus --
      • Mayor Cline today announced a new initiative ... or
      • The Cline administration is taking legal action to ... etc.
    • 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 is what you distribute at the press conference -- the reporters are already there in the room with you.

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