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Q&A

Lauren E. Garvey, Senior Manager
Community Relations and Branding and Corporate Communications Group Hitachi America, Ltd.

“Making Public Relations Work for You”
Follow-Up Questions

What is a media advisory?

A media advisory is a short, concise communication sent out typically for an event and includes the Who, What, Where, When and Why.  It’s generally used when targeting media to attend a specific media.  Broadcast media generally doesn’t care about a press release they prefer media advisories with “specific details.”  Media advisories should be used for special events with a special highlight, celebrity appearance, high profile keynote speaker, press conference, etc.

Tips for a Good Media Advisory:

  • It should be brief and to the point.
  • It should contain a headline detailing the most important information.
  • It should include the five Ws mentioned above.
  • It should include contact information for reporters to get more information for their pieces and the contact
  • Information you would like to be published if this is for a listing. Meaning website for directions, exact address including cross street and contact phone number if necessary to contact and speak with someone “live” not a recording or voicemail.

The format of a media advisory

  • At the top left side of the page, write MEDIA ADVISORY.
  • Underneath MEDIA ADVISORY, include the date of your event; for example, “May 15, 2009.”
  • At the top right side of the page, include your contact information.
  • At the bottom of the page, type # # # indicating the end of the advisory.

Sample of a media advisory

MEDIA ADVISORY

May 15, 2009

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Lauren Garvey, Hitachi America, Ltd.
(914) 333-2986

WHEN: Day, Month, Date, Year
Time, remember to state duration of event and if it’s a.m. or p.m.

WHERE: Location of Event
Address of Event (Include Cross Street)
City, State, Zip Code

WHO:  List the names of who is involved with event typically prominent figures, i.e. CEO’s, Governor of State, Mayor or Celebrities Involved

WHAT:   1-2 paragraphs about what the event is about (No more than 2 paragraphs) 

WHY:  1-2 paragraphs about why the event is being held (this is a news angle) this is your chance to attract the media to attend!

###

Tips on Media Alerts:

  • They are generally used to alert reporters to an event, press conference, award presentation, check donation, etc.
  • Send in advance in order to entice editors/reporters to cover an event
  • Keep alerts to 1-2 pages
  • Include hard-hitting first paragraphs that summarizes the key news point.
  • Clearly identify all particulars of an event (the who, what, where, when and why) in a readable and simple format.
  • Follow up shortly before the event to confirm media interest and attendance.
  • If there is a visual meaning something broadcast can capture be sure to reference

How does a media advisory differ from a press release?

A Media advisory is strictly for an event, which includes the 5 W’s. a press release is written “news story” should include the following:

  • Must relate to the reader
  • Engage reader’s attention
  • Must concern the reader
  • Must be in the reader’s interest

Press Releases should ALWAYS be Written in “Inverted Pyramid” Style

Generally the first tier or lead of the story is the first one or two paragraphs which include the most important facts.  From there paragraphs are written in descending order of importance with progressively less important facts presented as the article continues…thus the inverted pyramid. Lead is most critical element usually answering the questions concerning:

  • Who
  • What
  • Why
  • When
  • Where
  • How

When deciding on press release “news angles” consider the following:

  • Have a good reason for sending and drafting a press release
  • Focus on 1 central subject
  • Must be newsworthy
  • Include facts about product or service
  • Provide facts “factually”—no fluff or hyperbole
  • Don’t use jargon not commonly understood
  • Include quotes from company executives and third parties
  • Include a brief description of the company also known as “boilerplate” which always comes at end of release
  • In opening of release should have a sentence about company, business they are in, etc.
  • Always write clearly, concisely and forcefully

Press Release Content:

Always written in pyramid style
Lead must answer Who? What? Where? When? Why?

Dateline format in release follows Associated Press Style (the bible for PR professionals) Also another guide used is the New York Times Guide.

Dateline Example:

New York, NY, March 27, 2008—Ronald O. Schram has been named manager of the hosiery department at Bloomingdale’s Paramus, NJ store.

Suggest visiting www.businesswire.com you can search and see how press releases should be structured!

What is a pitch letter and what is the purpose of a pitch letter?

Tips for Crafting your pitch letter

  • Pitch letters are used to generate in-depth news and feature placements and to provide media with valid story ideas based on current issues, trends and other newsworthy subjects.  Typically pitch letters are sent to national reporters they generally don’t have much interest in the “traditional press release.”
  • Pitch letters can also be used to accompany a press release to a regional paper, generally you are “pitching” why the reporter should cover your event, cause, program, etc.
  • Develop and present an idea to a specific editor or beat reporter at a specific media outlet.
  • Keep letters short, concise and to the point, a few paragraphs, no more than one page.
  • Raise an interesting or unusual point in the first paragraph; expand subject briefly, suggest a story angle, and offer qualified spokespeople to be interviewed or source references.
  • Close by re-emphasizing the value of the idea, and indicate a follow up plan.
  • Be persuasive but avoid self-serving language; focus on benefits to the medium and its audience.
  • Follow up with editors to determine potential interest.  Follow up is essential but also know the preference of that reporter you are pitching.  Many times reporters don’t wish to be followed up with if they are interested they will contact you.  Don’t be a pest, if you follow up once don’t do it repeatedly.

Is there any way to make benefits and events more “newsworthy?”

A good rule to follow is always remember, reporters ARE NOT your personal publicists.  In order to get the interest of a reporter for a particular event you need to have a “unique” hook, celebrities are always a draw, but the downfall of celebrities is they typically won’t speak to the media.  So if getting the support from a celebrity try and ensure their willingness to speak with the media or even do a “Meet and Greet” or “Photo session”  Typically celebrities are very “guarded” and with good reason if you were a celebrity would you want to help a reporter, probably not given all they go through and lack of privacy.

When using celebrities another good idea is try to align your event/program/cause with that celebrity.  Meaning try and find an alignment meaning they have a personal commitment to your cause or share your passion.

How can I ensure that an “off the record” conversation with a reporter is really off the record?

There really is so such thing as “off the record” reporters are always digging for a story.  In some cases if you have an “established” relationship with a reporter you can have a backgrounding conversation.  You can also state that this conversation is “off-the record” but that won’t stop that reporter from going to his editor if he thinks he has a story and he will be a blood-hound to get at the truth.  This is particularly in cases where there is some “juicy or scandalous” news.  You can proceed with “off the record” conversations but keep in mind the phrase “Buyer Beware---tread very carefully.”

When is it appropriate to give a reporter “an exclusive?”

This is another slippery slope, I would never recommend doing this with a local or regional paper, they get particularly “miffed” if you do this and you need them especially if you are a local grassroots organization and their papers are important to getting out the word.

I would suggest an exclusive for a national publication, Wall Street Journal, NY Times.  In fact, typically it’s best to approach them with an exclusive but again remember you must have a “very newsy” story to tell.  You have to have a really strong newsangle to get their interest, you need to look at the bigger picture, why should they cover it, what is the benefit for them communicating about it to the public at large.

Can you say a few things about crisis PR? What should we do if something bad comes out about someone linked to our organization?

Key principles to remember when dealing with a Crisis situation:

  1. Among the ways an organization can influence the development of an issue are: 1) anticipate emerging issues, 2) deal with opportunities and vulnerabilities, 3) plan from the outside-in, 4) create an action company timetable, and 5) act with the imprimatur of top management.
  2. Among general steps in implementing an issues management program are: 1) identifying issues and trends, 2) evaluating issue impact and setting priorities, 3) establishing a company position, and 4) designing company action and response to achieve results.
  3. Risk communications involves frequent and forceful communicating of factual data relative to issues that cause emotional reactions, for example the areas of health and environmental hazards.
  4. The usual stages that an organization experiences in a crisis are: 1) surprise, 2) insufficient information, 3) escalating events, 4) loss of control, 5) increased outside scrutiny, 6) siege mentality, and 7) panic.
  5. When handling a crisis first, define the risk.
  6. Second, describe the actions that mitigate the risks.
  7. Third, identify the cause of the risks.
  8. Finally, demonstrate responsible management action.
  9. In a nutshell:  Be prepared.  Be available.  Be credible.
  10. The goals of crisis management include
  11. Terminate the crisis quickly
  12. Limit the damage
  13. Restore credibility.
  14. The cardinal rule for communicating in a crisis is to tell it all and tell it fast.
  15. In dealing with the media in crisis, organizations should: 1) set up media headquarters, 2) establish media rules, 3) provide “box score” data, 4) avoid speculating, 5) move swiftly, and 6) Try not to “feed the beast.”
  16. When speaking with the media remember: a) to anticipate emerging issues; b) identify issues selectively; c) deal with opportunities and vulnerabilities; d) plan from the outside in; e) bottom-line orientation; f) action timetable; and g) dealing form the top.

What should we do if we are misquoted in the press? Is there any way to get a correction made?

This happens to all of us even the best PR practitioners and publicists.  Prior to an interview or speaking with the media, you should be prepared.  It’s always best to make a list of questions you anticipate can be asked and then draft responses.  Keep your responses short and concise, by giving long winded answers you give the “reporter leeway” to take what you have said “out of context.” 

Generally reporters will only make a correction or clarification if what you are questioning is “factually wrong” this usually applies to financial numbers and hard facts which are either correct or incorrect. 

Also when going back to a reporter and asking for a correction, again tread carefully, you need to try to not burn the bridge, typically in my experience I will jot the reporter a note, and complimenting them on the piece and that is was nice to work with them.  And then point out “by the way, for future reporter, the point you made relating to……This way you are pointing out the point you feel is incorrect and letting them know. 

Of course if something is “wrong” then you must ask for a correction.  Keep in mind too, that very seldom do people see the corrections, so if going to a reporter to request a clarification or correction make sure it’s really important, otherwise may be best to let it go!