Recent Media Matters have discussed preparing a news release to ensure it gets read (MM#10) and developing a list of reporters and editors to send it to (MM#11).
But what happens when your release is actually USED? Sometimes we're surprised. And, sometimes, we're even worried.
"They quoted me but never even called me!" said one project director who had sent out an announcement about their new project. "I didn't know they were going to use this!"
It should not be surprising, nor worrisome, if a news outlet uses the material we send. That's why the news release was sent in the first place -- to be used!
It is not necessary -- or even expected -- that a news outlet will call the contact person(s) on your news release before they use the material. If the news release is well written -- in other words, effective -- it will contain everything a reporter needs to write a brief article using only the release. You will likely be called only if they are planning to write a substantive story about your project or issue, or if they want quotes that are not provided in the release, or a more in-depth understanding of the issue. Otherwise, they will simply use your material -- most of the time without contacting you first. The fact that you sent the news release in the first place signifies your permission for it to be used.
You may find the words you've written attributed to another person mentioned in the release; often the words in the news release are "said by" or "according to" the person listed as the contact, if no one else is mentioned. This is standard procedure. You should expect this to happen when you send a news release.
After all, if you have done a good job, you have written a release that CAN be used, "as is," by a news outlet. A well-prepared press release gives a reporter or editor all the material they need for a short item to print.
Sometimes your news release gets a reporter's attention for something completely different: although your release used you as a source for a new project on universal design, the reporter who covers city planning may have saved your name as a good person to call to discuss access in new city developments -- and may call you for something that has nothing directly to do with your project. Because your news release sounded credible, you were noted as a future source.
This, in fact, is one of the best pay-offs for sending a good news release: that you get "into the rolodex" of reporters and editors as a likely source for many issues related to your research or project. In their eyes, then, you've become an "expert source."
More Media Matters