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.