Make media releases fit for purpose

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How long should a media release be? Clients sometimes try to dictate what a media release should be and what it should look like, often to suit internal requirements or their own self image.

Some people seem to think a short release is not important enough and want it to go on and on.

We were once told by one organisation that all its media releases must be no more than one page in length so that they would fit properly on the website page.

Such niceties should not dictate how a media release is developed.  The objective is to produce information that results in an acceptable story in the media – one that will be seen by people important to you, not a document that a website designer thinks looks good.

A media release should be long enough to say what needs to be said, no more and no less. Certainly the writing needs to be disciplined and interesting but even journalists have their own views on what length best suits them.

Some journalists like short releases so they can follow up on additional information.

Others like them long because they can get all the information they need in one place, while others have still different views.

Certainly the contents of a release must be agreed by a client, be accurate in what is said, and these days be cleared by legal & compliance (and others).

Yet editing releases internally for the sake of it, and even insisting on the company house style (especially when it includes incorrect punctuation or grammar) is counterproductive.

The style of a media release should be based on the house style of major media groups, not that of the sender. The easier a media release is to understand, and the less it has to be changed by journalists, the more chance it has of getting used.

It also needs to be relevant and be newsworthy but that’s another story.

Quotes that are unintelligible ‘managementese’ or full of jargon to make executives sound important, but which sacrifice clarity and usefulness, are also counterproductive.

We appreciate that every release belongs to a client and that it is their organisation being presented. But it’s frustrating when you know they are not taking full advantage of an opportunity or reducing the amount of coverage a release could obtain.

This also includes boilerplates. We believe they must be a short, factual description to help a journalist unfamiliar with an organisation describe it accurately in any story. Some marketing executives have sought to replace existing boilerplates that were useful to journalists, with some “feel good” airy-fairy copy that is not factual.

Even disclaimers can be counterproductive. I realise they are necessary, especially for financial services organisations, but some disclaimers have large chunks of legalese that is completely irrelevant to the use of the document. Some disclaimers these days are twice as long as the release itself and are really designed for quite a different purpose.

So what is the answer to the question: how long should a media release be?  It’s quite simple – as long as it needs to be containing factual information that is useful both to the journalist and the organisation.

If organisations want to get something published or broadcast that is so self-interested it is unlikely it will interest journalists or editors, they should take out an advertisement.