You’re about to make a big announcement. It’s something important and practical that will benefit many, and something that your organization has put a lot of time and effort into. It’s big news. You’ve planned a press conference to let everyone know about it – but how do you get reporters to show up?

A well-prepared media alert can help you get the attention of the right people at the right time.

What does a media alert look like?

In 2010, Maytree worked with SmartSAVER to release its report, More than Money: Mining the human and financial potential of Canada’s education savings programs for low-income families. The report outlined a number of specific recommendations on how to improve the access for low-income families to federal government education savings programs. Visit the report page to learn more.

To release the report, we organized an online press conference and sent an alert to let the media know. Here’s how to write a media alert, with examples from our own More than Money alert.

1. Choose a strong headline

You should spend as much time writing the headline as you spend writing the rest of the advisory (some may leave this to last). A strong headline will make it less likely for your alert to get lost (or ignored) in a journalist’s email box.

Your headline should be catchy, but not so cute that it loses its meaning. It should tell the journalist what the alert is about – whether it’s a release of a report, a photo opportunity or an event that shouldn’t be missed.

Here’s what I wrote:

Alert: New report provides recommendations to ensure low-income families don’t miss out on education grants

2. Write a short introductory paragraph

In one or two sentences, describe what’s happening and why the journalist should care. You may want to add a bit more information to convince the journalist to attend the event, call you for more information or set up an interview.

Here’s my introductory paragraph followed by more information about the report:

Online press conference on Wednesday, December 1 at 10:00 am EST: Release of the SmartSAVER report “More than Money: Mining the human and financial potential of Canada’s education savings programs for low-income families.”

Join Maytree for this online press conference to hear May Wong, Executive Director of The Omega Foundation and designer of the SmartSAVER project, as she discusses why low-income families don’t access grants designed to help them save. She makes practical recommendations to organizations serving low-income families and policy recommendations to government. Better access to educational savings tools can contribute to higher post-secondary enrolment for low-income students.

3. Provide all important details

Here, focus on the Five Ws (who, what, where, when and why). Since I mentioned some of those already in my introductory paragraph, I concentrated on details of the event:

Wednesday, December 1, 10:00-11:00 a.m. EST

After a 20-minute webcast presentation, press conference participants will have an opportunity to ask questions.

Where: From your desktop.

How to attend:
Please RSVP at [link to registration page] to receive your access code to attend the webcast. Please direct inquiries to [link to email].

A recording of the event and the PDF of the report will be available online at [link to recording page].

4. Add information about your organization and who to contact

Finally, add more information about the organization and how you can be contacted.

If you’d like to see another example of a media alert, have a look at this one for an in-person event celebrating the winners of the 2013 Diversity in Governance Awards.

Now that you’ve written the alert, you need to send it to the right people. How to best do that will be the topic of my next Nonprofit MarCommunity blog post.

Markus Stadelmann-Elder

Markus Stadelmann-Elder

Director of Communications at Maytree
Since arriving in Toronto from Switzerland in 1992, Markus has worked and volunteered in a number of communications roles, including leading an in-house design team at Lavalife, Toronto’s largest online dating company, and managing the communications team at Variety Village. In January 2009, Markus joined Maytree, a charitable foundation focused on reducing poverty and inequality in Canada and building strong civic communities.
Markus Stadelmann-Elder
Markus Stadelmann-Elder