Releases vs. Advisories
A media (or press) release announces news; a media (or press) advisory lets reporters know of an upcoming event or news story, or provides deep background on an ongoing issue. In short, an advisory is sent out before an event; a media release is sent out after.
Where to Send Your Media Release
When you have information that you really believe might interest multiple reporters, send out a release. If you have information that you think might interest one particular publication, you are better off calling to talk about it. Don’t forget your campus’ student newspaper, which may do much to influence the opinions of students, and perhaps of their parents. Articles that run in student newspapers also often trigger the interest of local media and lead to more coverage.
What to Write
Releases can be sent by mail, fax, or e-mail. Identify the release as a media release, and either write “for immediate release” or ”embargoed until X date” on your release. Do not break your own embargo. In the top right corner, list names, e-mail addresses, and phone numbers of two contacts. Make sure these contacts can be easily reached (often a problem for academics who may be on the go).
If reporters aren’t interested in your headline, they won’t read the release. Make it punchy and use a large font. Place key information in the lead paragraph—who, why, when, where, and how. The most important information is in the lead, with additional paragraphs in descending order of importance. If possible, include quotes in the release; this makes it more interesting, and is a convenience for reporters, who may lift the quotes directly from your release. Also,
avoid the passive voice.
use action verbs and make it lively.
avoid jargon and technical terms.
write simple, declarative sentences and short paragraphs. Your audience members are neither academics nor, necessarily, well versed in the details of higher education legislation, contract negotiations, or financial exigency.
Prepare boilerplate language describing your AAUP chapter or other organization and include it at the end of the release.
It may also be useful to develop a folder of materials that includes basic information about the financial crisis at your institution or in your state, as well as other relevant background information, for reporters. For example, you might include salary data showing that your institution’s compensation is already low compared to peers, or data showing past tuition hikes, or news articles on how similar institutions are handling similar crises better—whatever helps you make your case.