By Susanna Kalnes, Senior Associate
The art of media relations is a fun and evolving practice, and while press releases, media alerts and pitch emails aren’t the only tools PR people use to connect with journalists, they are still regularly used and quite effective when properly executed. So, let’s start with the basics – what are each of these PR tools and when should they be used to communicate your news?
A press release is a short, one to two page document that’s used to make a specific, timely announcement about a company, organization or entity. A press release should be written objectively and with concise factual information that would help a journalist seeking quick, pertinent information about the announcement. Any subjective statements – opinions of the business owner, for instance – should be included in the form of a quote. In many cases, press releases showcase company change or momentum for a target audience or audiences (customers, investors, consumers, etc.) to see. They can also increase web traffic and search engine optimization.
When is a press release appropriate? When an organization has a very specific news item to announce. Examples of this are, but not limited to, a new product launch, the establishment of a new business division, a company merger, a new investor, and an award recognition.
A media alert is a less formal, but highly informational document that is typically structured in a “who, what, when, where, why” format, where each of these questions get answered in a succinct fashion. The purpose of a media alert is to solicit media attendance, so it is, in my ways, a “one-stop-shop” for all of the meeting logistics to make it simple for a journalist or cameraperson to attend and cover the event. The “why” section is where organizations can include additional messages and key points.
When is a media alert appropriate? When there is a specific event taking place at a specific time. These events can be everything from thousands of people gathering in a public space to two people meeting privately to discuss an important issue. They can cover the details of any event, from street fairs and concerts to protests and important meetings. They can can also be about noteworthy gatherings and press conferences where media are invited to attend. Typically, you would not use a media alert if your event is closed to the press.
A pitch email is the least formal, but perhaps most effective, of the three PR tools listed above. The purpose of a pitch email is to suggest a new news story to a journalist. It’s important to do your research to make sure the story you are suggesting is both relevant to the reporter’s beat, uniquely different than what they’ve covered before and timely. Pitch emails can be anywhere from two sentences long to three paragraphs long. In general, though, reporters prefer them to be short and to the point.
When is a pitch email appropriate? When you have an idea for a news story that would be not only appropriate for the publication’s audience, but could also be presented in an objective way. Offering a news hook is important, so make sure you have something timely to connect your story to before you offer it.