Have you considered using a media release to promote your practice? Now may be the time to start. A well-written, informative media release can be an easy and inexpensive way to build your practice and convey news about the chiropractic profession.
A media release, or news release as it’s also called, is the most widely used method to communicate information to the media. It describes what’s different or newsworthy at your practice, and it builds community awareness about the services you offer. Best of all, because the publication of a media release isn’t paid for, its credibility with readers is high.
Any professional editor can tell you that many news stories originate from media releases. When your media releases are selected for publication and/or you are quoted in local articles, you become a defacto “expert” and are seen by readers as an authority in your field.
A word of caution before you start writing: Broadcast and print media reporters are bombarded by dozens of media releases daily. If your media release is to be read, and considered for use, it should be a newsworthy story that is timely or tied to relevant issues of the day (e.g., backpack tips during back-to-school times, information related to something in the news such as ergonomics regulations passed by the federal government, etc.).
The information should be stated clearly and simply; the release should be heavy on information and short on descriptive words. Most importantly, the media release shouldn’t be self-serving. That’s why you should send media releases only when your story is legitimate news. Your media release should not be a pitch to sell your services. Your goal is to get noticed and raise awareness, generate activity and call your audience to action. You want your audience to be drawn to your practice because of your participation in the community.
Some newsworthy items may include sponsorship of a health fair or conference, team sponsorships, opening a new office, conducting a food drive, etc. (see related article, “News Items that Justify a Media Release,” this page, for more ideas). In short, develop a “nose for news” about those items that may be of interest to people in your community. Respond appropriately with a media release when it is warranted to let community members know that you exist and that you would welcome the opportunity to serve their health-care needs.
How To Know What’s Newsworthy
Reporters use specific criteria to determine whether an event is really news.
Therefore, it’s important that you answer a few questions before you begin to write a media release:
- What are you trying to accomplish? What’s the news event? Why should people stop and take notice? What action do you want your audience to take?
- Will the news be of interest? What are the reasons that someone would want to learn more about your profession and the health-care services you provide? Answering these questions will go a long way in helping you write what people may want to know.
Here’s a tip that will add authority to your news releases: Try combining your news with a current statistic. For example: “Back pain is nearly as common as the cold: Some 80% of Americans suffer from back pain at some point, racking up medical bills and lost productivity estimated at $50 billion a year, according to the federal Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR). And, one in three Americans with back pain turns to a chiropractor for relief, according to a study published in the journal Spine.”
- Who should receive your media release? Start your list with those who would most likely have an interest in your news item. For example, you may want to target members of the media who cover healthcare-related topics. Include television or radio stations, magazines, newspapers and local community publications. As you compile your list, remember that your media release should be sent to anyone who might have an interest in your news or anyone who might be able to help generate referrals.
What’s more, your media release has a better chance of getting read if you send it to a specific reporter or editor. Call the news stations and publications to get specific reporters’ or editors’ names and titles. For example, Jim Jones, Health Editor, ABC Today. You may also want to consider extending invitations to members of the media to meet for breakfast or lunch in order to familiarize each other with what you’re trying to accomplish.
The Standard Media Release
Media releases, like most documents, should be formatted in a specific way. All media releases contain six key elements:
- Letterhead – Always use your office or organization’s letterhead to provide credibility and professionalism. The letterhead should include information such as your phone number, fax number, business address, e-mail address, website address, etc.
- Date and Embargo – Include a date indicating when the release is issued and another date indicating when your news should be made public. For example, the issue date may be March 1, 2001, and the embargo date, “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE” or “DO NOT RELEASE UNTIL MARCH 3, 2001.” Place this information in the upper left-hand corner, bold face, all capital letters. List this information about one-third from the top of the page.
Be aware of publication and broadcast deadlines — especially if your material is time-sensitive. With practice, you will learn when stories need to be received by the media outlets in your area in order to make the next issue and/or broadcast, and will take advantage of these opportunities.
- Contact – Then, skip two lines and write: “Contact Information.” Here, you’ll include your name, work, home and/or cellular or pager numbers, fax number, e-mail address and website address.
- Headline – Skip two lines and enter your headline in bold face type, all CAPITAL LETTERS. Your headline summarizes the story you are telling. Grab your readers’ attention with a snappy headline that’s no longer than seven words.
- Dateline – Skip two lines and enter the dateline. This is the city where your media release is issued, and the date of the mailing. For example, Des Moines, Iowa, March 1, 2001. This also begins the first sentence of the lead paragraph.
- Text – Then write your lead paragraph using the journalist’s five “Ws” – plus “How”:
Make sure you catch the readers’ attention in the first sentence and answer these questions in the first paragraph. Spend extra time on your first paragraph; it’s the most important one. Reporters read dozens of media releases every day, and sometimes they have only a few seconds to determine whether to use your story. That’s why it’s important to hook them from the beginning by giving them a reason to publish your news. A good lead paragraph anchored by a good lead sentence will help do that. Throughout the rest of your release, cover all of the points of your news completely, and tell your story.
A word to the wise: It’s unlikely that your entire media release will appear as you have submitted it. In most cases, your media release will be rewritten by the reporter who received the material; or, only a portion of your media release will be used because of space or time considerations.
Often, reporters will cut articles “from the bottom up.” That’s why it’s good practice to always provide the most important information first, and to read your media release without the last few paragraphs included, after you have written the first draft.
Other important guidelines you should follow include:
- Keep it short. Keep the media release short — generally three pages or less (the ideal length is two pages). Don’t number the first page, but you should write “- more -” at the bottom of the first and any additional pages, if there are multiple pages.
- When appropriate, include a photograph. Include a photograph with your media release when it’s appropriate. A photograph makes it easy for the reporter to experience first-hand your subject matter. Photographs should be of high technical quality. Make sure you identify the event, as well as the subject(s) pictured.
- Check for accuracy. After the media release is written, double-check every name, date and piece of information in the story. A hint for telephone numbers: Dial the telephone number yourself to make sure it’s correct.
- Get the spacing correct. Skip two lines between paragraphs, indent each paragraph five spaces and double-space each line. Print text on one side of the paper only and align the text flush left.
To symbolize the conclusion of your media release, type “- 30 -” – or use three number symbols “###.” Center these at the bottom of the page.
See page 52 for a sample media release template that you can follow to make things as easy as possible.
It’s that easy. Once you’ve mastered the art of writing your own media releases, and seeing your news broadcast and/or published, you’ll soon discover that more potential patients will contact you to find out more. Good luck!