Creating media materials
There are numerous materials that people use to communicate with the media. Some of the common tried-and-true staples that reporters of the media most often receive and expect are described here.
Press releases – A press release is a short article (rarely more than one page long) written in a style similar to a news story, either about an upcoming activity or a report about something that recently occurred. Press releases are intended to give reporters and editors enough information about an event so they can decide whether to publish a story about it. The should include the following basic information:
- Date, time and location of event
- Names of all people and groups participating in the event
- One or two sentences on why a journalist would want to cover the event
- Information on any visual elements being displayed at the event
- Contact information for questions
Media advisories – One of the simplest publicity materials to prepare, media advisories alert reporters to an upcoming event. Advisories often are used to invite reporters to attend and cover an outreach event. If there will be photo or interview opportunities at the event, mention that in the media advisory. Advisories should be less than a page long and include the same basic information as press releases.
Letters to the editor – These should relate to an article that a newspaper or magazine recently published and either add information or counter an opinion that you do not agree with. A letter to the editor should be brief and to the point. Look at the letters that the publication has previously printed and you will get an idea of what gets an editor’s attention.
Check and adhere to the newspaper's letter specifications, especially regarding word limits. Letters should be only a few paragraphs long (between 150 and 250 words); those that do get published are usually edited for space and style considerations. Write in short paragraphs and include your contact information (name, address, phone number and email) so editors can easily contact you.
Op-eds – An op-ed is an opinion column typically carried opposite the editorial page; thus, the name. Newspapers have guidelines for op-eds, such as length (usually 750 to 1000 words), topic, timeliness and relevancy to its readers. Check with your local newspaper for its requirements and guidelines.
An op-ed is likely to be published if the opinion is unique, rather than just adding to the chorus of similar viewpoints. A key factor in determining if an op-ed will be published is who wrote it. An op-ed authored by a well-known person or someone with considerable expertise in the topic area is more likely to be used than one from a less-known or less-qualified person.
When submitting an op-ed article, draft a short cover note that includes the author’s contact information and reason for writing the piece. After sending your submission, follow up with a telephone call expressing your hope that the publication will publish the op-ed.