Media Tip Sheet

What Reporters Want

(adapted from the Communications Consortium Media Center)

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:

  • Uses the inverted pyramid: main point first, then the background. The ending can be organizational puffery.
  • Short-staffed papers or websites may print the release as-is.

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 public relations officer:

  • 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.
  • 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.