How to Write a Media Alert and When to Send It

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A media alert or media advisory is a document you write to alert the media about an upcoming event that you believe will be newsworthy. It's essentially an invitation and, like any other invitation, it should be short and concise. Organizations write media alerts for occasions like a grand opening, press conference or charity event. If the event has already passed, a media alert isn't appropriate and you should consider sending a press release instead.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)

A media alert should be short and concise indicating when an event is to occur. Send out your media alert three to five days before the event.

Media Alert vs. Press Release

Media alerts and press releases differ in their function and, consequently, in how they're written and presented. In short, a media alert offers basic information. A press release reads like a news article.

Small publications, such as weekly or daily newspapers, as well as websites, will sometimes publish a press release with little or no changes. Larger publications will often use a press release as the basis of an article with the reporter and editor adding and removing information as they see fit.

Writing a Media Alert

If you've never written a media alert, be prepared to write a few different drafts before you get it right. A media alert should be brief and succinct, ideally less than one page. Reporters and editors use the five Ws to ensure the most important questions have been answered, and your media alert should address them as well: Who, What, When, Where and Why. Specifically, these questions should be:

  • Who are you?
  • What's the event? 
  • When is the event?
  • Where is the event?
  • Why are you holding the event? 

Your media alert should also contain the following:

  • A headline appropriate for the event.
  • Contact information for reporters to get additional information.
  • Contact information that you want to be published in stories covering the event.
  • MEDIA ALERT written at the top left of the page.
  • Your contact information written at the top right of the page.
  • The date of the event.
  • The word "end" or the symbols "# # #" at the bottom of the page, which indicates the end of the media alert.

Writing a Press Release

A press release should include a photo and relevant facts and quotations from an organization spokesperson. If you're writing about or quoting yourself, use the third person as a news story would if it was written by a reporter.

The press release should be structured as a news story, using an inverted pyramid structure that places the most important information at the top and less important information at the bottom. A news release should also contain:

  • Your contact information at the top right of the page.
  • PRESS RELEASE written at the top left of the page.
  • FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE written directly below PRESS RELEASE.
  • The date under FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE.
  • The word "more" at the bottom of the first page if the press release is longer than a single page.
  • The word "end" or the symbols "# # #" at the bottom of the page, indicating the end of the press release.

Press Release and Media Alert Headlines

As with any article you'd read in a newspaper or online, your headline will either make or break your article. Both press release and media alert headlines need to be accurate, short descriptions of what you're writing about, but they should also get the reader's attention. After writing your news alert or press release, ask yourself what the most interesting aspect is. Ask friends or coworkers which headline would get their interest.

If you're opening a new manufacturing plant, for example, your headline could be "New Manufacturing Plant Opening in MyTown, Ohio." However, if you're also creating jobs, a headline such as, "120 New Jobs Announced in MyTown, Ohio" may be more compelling.

Media Alert Example

MEDIA ALERT

September 1, 2019

Little Red Riding Hood is Coming!

After a long absence this summer, we're pleased to announce that our beloved granddaughter, Little Red Riding Hood, will be returning to Grandma's House on September 1st at 1:00 p.m. local time.

Little Red had been with her parents over the summer helping with farm chores and will reside at Grandma's House throughout the school year. Grandma's House, located at 2714 County Road 7, has been a local tourist attraction for over 100 years.

The media and well-wishers are invited to attend, beginning at 12:00 p.m. Cake and ice cream will be served following her arrival.

For more information contact:

Grandma

(555) 212-3434

grandma@wolfmail.com

#

Press Release Example

PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 2, 2019

New Variety of Apples Have Restorative Properties

For those who can't get a good night's sleep, a new variety of apples may be the cure. Local farmer Desmond Hunter discovered their curative effects after he gave a dozen apples from his crop to the Wicked Queen in August. The Queen, in turn, offered one of the apples to Snow White.

Upon eating the apple, Snow White says she fell asleep almost immediately. Her roommates were unable to wake her for two days. She awoke after 48 hours of slumber.

"I've not slept so well in years," Ms. White stated. "It was an answer to my dreams!"

"We were going to call 9-1-1, said Grumpy, a friend of Snow White's, "but she had been complaining of insomnia for several days and we thought the rest might do her good."

The new variety of apples, which have yet to be named, should be available at local pharmacies and farmers markets in the coming months, pending FDA approval.

Contact information:

Desmond Hunter

Fairytale Farms

(555) 212-4343

fairytale-farms@gmail.com

#

How to Contact the Media

Take some time to consider who may be interested in your media event or press release before sending it out. Small business owners often make the mistake of sending media alerts to everyone imaginable, believing that this will increase the odds of it being picked up. However, this is seldom the case.

Local Stories: A new hardware store's grand opening in a small town in Michigan isn't a story Reuters or the Associated Press will be interested in. Weekly community newspapers may be interested and, if there's a hook and it's a slow news day, local television, radio and daily newspapers may be interested.

Global Stories: Stories with global interest are extremely rare, especially when it comes to business news. However, if you've discovered a cure for cancer or how to make cold fusion work in a glass of water, the world may be interested. You can use news services like Newswire or eReleases to contact as many news outlets as possible or contact major media outlets in your area. If a major media outlet covers a really good story, other outlets will soon pick it up.

Industry-Specific Stories: Trade magazines and industry-specific websites and publications can be ideal platforms for interesting stories related to your business. Take a look at the types of stories they run and if you sincerely believe your story is a good fit, add them to your media contact list. You can also use news services to get your story to industry-specific publications and editors.

As with any other business, relationships matter in the media. If you have contacts in the media, such as the sales rep you buy your ads from, ask them how to best approach the editorial department with your story. If you're a good customer, media outlets may be interested in covering your story.

References

About the Author

A published author, David Weedmark has advised businesses on technology, media and marketing for more than 20 years and used to teach computer science at Algonquin College. He is currently the owner of Mad Hat Labs, a web design and media consultancy business. David has written hundreds of articles for newspapers, magazines and websites including American Express, Samsung, Re/Max and the New York Times' About.com.