Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Lost Art of the Media Alert

by Jeremy Porter

You hear a lot of talk about press releases as a PR tactic, but what about the media alert (also commonly known as a media advisory)? Before the days or email and Twitter, media alerts were the short form way to alert news organizations about something timely you wanted them to cover. I’m sure newsrooms still get a ton of media alerts, but I’ve seen few posts on the subject. I think the building blocks of a good media alert translate well to email and social media, so here are some brief tips for you.

First, What’s a Media Alert?

There’s a good chance many of you don’t know what a media alert is. A media alert is an alernative format for PR writing used to communicate an event to the media in advance. Think of a media alert as a quick, at-a-glance summary of your event, which gives reporters, editors and producers all the information they need to decide whether or not to cover your story. Media alerts are typically one page (or less) and focus on the following information:

* An attention-grabbing first paragraph that summarizes your event
* Clear identification of all your event details (the who, what, where, when and why)
* Some value-add that makes it worth the time

Why Media Alerts Work

Now first of all, this event probably wouldn’t be much of a media draw, unless the attendees were true celebrities and the event was in a market like NYC, where there might be a large number of journalists covering marketing and social media topics. That said, the format works well for more newsworthy events, such as press conferences, grand openings, fundraiser events, public product launches, etc.

Media alerts work well because they take a “just the facts” approach to communicating the news. They work best when you have recognized individuals or organizations participating in the event. As media professionals are getting more and more comfortable with the 140 character Twitter pitch, it’s of increased importance to be brief, get to the point, and take as little of their time as possible.

If you post your media alert to the Web, you could easily tweet about your event with a link to more details. This approach is being used by smart publicists all the time. Rather than forcing a journalist to read through a news release to find what’s most important, boil your news down to its root details with a media alert.

Do you use media alerts or media advisories to communicate your news? Do media alerts work better for securing news coverage than traditional press releases? Please share your thoughts – or better yet, links to your media alerts.

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