What Reporters Want

A good press release / media advisory / statement / phone call / email:

    • Makes its central point immediately. Why is the reporter spending time reading / listening to this? What is the alleged news here? What is the lead?
    • Backs up the lead. Why does this matter? What facts, events, authorities, statements document it?
    • Includes real people: direct quotes from named humans saying sound-bite-size pithy things.
    • Offers a source for more information. Who can the reporter contact with questions?
    • Does not ramble. One page is ideal, two is the maximum. No phone calls over two minutes.
    • Puts the jargon in English. A reporter should never have to ask for a translation.
    • Does not induce sleep. Cliches, buzzwords, dead metaphors etc. show dead minds.

A good statement/ press release begins like a short wire service news story: the inverted pyramid: main point first, then the background. The ending can be organizational puffery.

  • Lazy or short-staffed papers or websites may print the release as-is.

A good press kit (printed or online)

  • If printed, it’s not too slick. It’s easy to skim, has bullet points for particulars, and is readable: uses short paragraphs, boldface, bullets, subheads and white space between items (no seas of gray print).
  • Explains in an Overview why all this information is necessary and whose perspective the kit represents. Each page has the name of the organization and contact info (use the footer).
  • Divides the subject into chunks that each have one central point and might each be a story: fact sheets, profiles, success/tearjerker stories, links to studies/reports; maybe recent news articles you like.
  • Documents all facts with sources less than five years old in modified footnote/endnote style. Be prepared to supply copies of the original sources upon request. Note date each website still existed.
  • Offers story construction material: to use in the grain-of-salt paragraph; the so-what paragraph; the human example; the good quotes; the kicker. Photos, brochures, posters, video, audio sources.

A good op ed or letter to the editor

  • Makes one sharp point.
  • Addresses a timely and controversial subject from a unique perspective.
  • Is short: about 750 words for an op ed, 150 max for a letter.
  • Is written in creative, forceful language. Use wit or sarcasm if appropriate.

A good summary or digest

  • Puts the central conclusions, findings or point at the top. The fact that a meeting occurred or that a study exists is not the news: the findings, the decisions, the recommendations are the news.
  • Uses bullets to list secondary points or supporting evidence.
  • Indicates where in the main text (or at what website) to find the points and more data.

A good flack

  • Calls, texts, emails or messages only with BRIEF word of genuine news: a lie is not forgivable.
  • Is always cheerfully available and accessible whenever the reporter calls, but never complains when the reporter isn’t available. Joking, candid asides, offhand lunch/drink invitations are good.
  • Sends regular papers, releases, bulletins, email, etc. but never whines when they aren’t used.
  • Provides reliable and pointed facts, insider info and analysis, instantly and on deadline.
  • Provides articulate people who give good short quotes, instantly and on deadline.
  • Calls or writes politely to correct errors, offer new angles. MAINTAINS THE RELATIONSHIP.
  • Provides useful background materials before, during and after they are story-relevant.