Media Tips

Courtesy of Lou Hammond & Associates

How to Write a Press Release

Guidelines:
  • Make the release no more than two pages.
  • The release should be typewritten, 1.5 or double-spaced.
  • Include the "five w's": who, what, where, when, why.
  • Write in the inverted pyramid style, with the most important information in the first paragraph. Editors cut from the bottom up.
  • Consult the Associated Press Stylebook for grammar and usage. If the style book is not available, refer to Webster's Dictionary.
  • Send your press release in the body of an email, not as an attachment.
  • Never call the media just to see if they've received your release.

Tips for Responding to Media Leads and Pitching Stories

  • Media professionals have a job to do, just like you. Make it easy for them and you have a friend.
  • Speed is essential; members of the media often need information the same day.
  • A short, but comprehensive pitch opens doors. Avoid adjectives. Get to the point but include all necessary detail so media can take the information and run with it.
  • Remember, media professionals hear it all and are sometimes jaded. Always ask yourself, "Why would they / their readers care about my news?"
  • Members of the media receive hundreds releases / pitches per week; think about what you can do to stand out.
  • Identify the media that best reaches your audience; know their beat, and tailor your message.
  • Use e-mail wisely and follow up with a phone call. Be prepared to sell fast.

When pitching to the media, keep their audience in mind:
  • Offer real news, trend information and positive stories.
  • So, what IS news? New hotels, attractions, restaurants, products, significant events, moments in history celebrated today, new appointments, awards / recognitions, survey data, new offerings / packages, especially those tied to trends
  • What's NOT news: "We're the best," "we're the most luxurious," "we're the most fun," etc.
  • It is imperative to be able to quantify and substantiate; put the news in perspective.

Interviews 101: Tips for Speaking with the Press

  • Be prepared and help the media meet their deadlines! Respect the media's time constraints and go out of your way to be helpful. You'll make friends fast.
  • Make notes and have two to three talking points ready to go.
  • Practice makes perfect! Think ahead about possible questions and answers.
  • Learn and practice relaxation techniques to use prior to interviews.
  • Enthusiasm is essential! Adopt a friendly, conversational style.
  • Convey optimism, honesty, and realism. Personalize your responses; talk from experience.
  • Use approved news, not confidential information. Be accurate and use facts and figures.
  • Use short sentences and emphasize key words; prepare positive quotes and / or sound bites.
  • Breathe! Brief pauses accentuate points.
  • Compliment the interviewer. "That's a good question."
  • Use the interviewer's name. This approach is more intimate and helps to establish rapport.
  • If you don't understand a question, ask for clarification.
  • It is acceptable to tell a journalist that you don't have all the facts and that you'll get back with an answer.
  • Never let a reporter put words in your mouth.
  • Don't accept a reporter's facts / figures. If you disagree, say so.
  • If a question is inappropriate, politely decline to answer.
  • Avoid saying, "No comment," because it is perceived as negative. Give a reason why you can't answer, i.e., the information is unavailable / pending / not your area of expertise, etc.
  • But most of all, remember that nothing is off the record.
Understanding media behavior:
  • They expect to be catered to.
  • Everything is urgent - it is always needed NOW.
  • Remember that information spreads from medium to medium.
Deadlines vary by medium:
  • Magazines - Six months
  • Television - Six months to immediate
  • Regional magazines - two-three months
  • Newspapers - two months to immediate
  • Trade publications - one month
  • Radio -two-three weeks to immediate
  • Internet - one-two weeks to immediate

Packaging 101

Special hotel packages/deals serve as a vehicle to drive media buzz and business to individual hotel properties. There are several steps/tips in creating a package to make the offer more interesting and enticing to members of the media. Below are seven tips to consider when creating a hotel package:
  • Catchy, creative title
  • Tie to current trend, happening or event to make newsworthy
  • Value-added / Value-priced (this is different from cheapest)
  • VIP / Behind-the-scenes component
  • Unique, creative ideas unavailable elsewhere
  • Destination tie-in / experience
  • Connection to a certain audience
Example:
New trends in the travel industry saw a new trend when a desire to volunteer while on vacation surfaced from travelers. The trend was dubbed "voluntourism" and quickly became a hot topic for travel media coverage. Taking advantage of the trend and "hot topic," Mandarin Oriental Miami leveraged its close proximity to Everglades National Park and launched a voluntourism package.

The "Miami Everglades" package included:
  • Two night's accommodations
  • Complimentary breakfast daily
  • Day Trip to Everglades National Park
    • 9:30 a.m. - noon: Volunteer mission
    • Noon - 1 p.m.: lunch (boxed lunch provided by Mandarin Oriental, Miami)
    • 1 p.m. - 3 p.m.: Inspiring tour of the park
    • Hybrid rental car for a day
As a result of quick action to a travel trend (voluntourism) and a smart timing, the package received several excellent media placements including:
  • Coastal Living, March 13, 2009. Audience: 103,380
  • Time.com, March 30, 2009. Circulation: 5,051,521
  • Time.com, November 35, 2009. Circulation: 5,051,521