Monday, February 12, 2007

When I conduct a media training session I always say: “It’s your responsibility to make yourself understood, not the responsibility of others to understand you.” Yet, recently I was caught myself breaking this rule.

I answered a client’s question using industry jargon. He politely pretended to understand which only made the problem worse. A few days later, in our next conversation I realized we completely didn’t communicate in the previous discussion.

In this case, I was lucky to be able to explain. While I have learned my lesson, I thought this entry should be dedicated to some media relations jargon ….just in case.

Media release: This is not an ‘article’. Rather a short summary of what a journalist could write about. We generally keep our releases to one page and write it in story format including quotes. If a journalist wanted, they could cut and paste our release into their paper. If not, it will provide them with a good idea about what can be done with the idea.

Media advisory: This is a shorter form of a release that is generally used for announcements (events, management changes, etc.). It may or may not include quotes and it is supposed to just cover the basic who, what, where, when and why.

The pitch: This can be written in a cover letter to media or made verbally. It’s a succinct and compelling argument why media should cover the story. A good pitch is arguably equally or more important than the release.

Fact sheet: This is an informational document (one to two pages max) that should be dedicated to explaining one specific thing such as company highlights, tips, etc. A backgrounder is a form of fact sheet generally dedicated to further explaining an issue.

Media follow-up: I wish that after we sent a media release to journalists we could call them and they’d always answer their phones or, at least return our calls more frequently. The reality is that most media hide behind voice mail – perhaps because in addition to being on tight deadlines – they have PR professionals sending them dozens of releases a day. The follow-up, if you are able to ever get media on the phone, needs to be done skillfully. You better know what they cover before calling. You better understand news and why the story you are calling about is worthy of their attention. And, you better talk fast. There is about 10 seconds to make your point before they tune out and try to get off the phone. The tough part is that the less follow-up that is done, the less chance of a story being written. Follow-up is a necessary evil in our industry to help rise above the clutter….presuming of course, that your idea isn’t part of the clutter!

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