Do Media Releases Answer the Editor’s 5 W’s?


Do Your Media Releases Answer the Editor’s Five W’s?

Most of us are familiar with The Five W’s: Who? What? Where? When? Why?  And those of us who prepare media releases try to answer these five questions in the first or second sentence.   But did you know that editors uses the Five W’s in a very different way to decide if your release is going to be published or spiked?  Here’s how to use their thought processes to get better exposure for your releases:

What’s this all about?

The first thing an editor wants to know is why you prepared a media release.  Some companies send releases for no reason other than to hope against hope that they may get their names published.  The strategy can backfire when an editor deletes a legitimate release without a second glance because the sender has become a spammer.   You can stay off the spammer list by making sure you have something of value every time you contact an editor.

Who cares?

An editor must think like a reader and if you want to be successful, you have to think like an editor.  You need to know the publication’s demographic, what topics are of interest and the preferred writing style.  That information is readily available if you simply read a few copies of your target newspaper or magazine to make sure you have something of interest to its readers.  And if, in the end, your news story is only about how wonderful you are, you may want to find another topic that can stand the “Who cares?” test.

Where’s the hook?

Readers need to be hooked to stay with an article.  And that hook must be strong enough to compete with stories in other publications, on radio, TV, the internet and more.  There’s a lot of competition for a reader’s attention, so the sooner your hook appears, the more easily the reader – and the editor – will grab it.  And if there is no hook?  Well, you may have to take another look to make sure you really have a story.

When will you get to the point?

One of the most irritating editorial tasks is reading an item that seems to be structurally sound but meanders all over the place before it delivers its central point.  Editors are an impatient lot because they know they have about three seconds to grab the reader’s attention before that person flips to another page or closes the publication.  And that means the main point must be close to the top of the item.  A lot of writers struggle with this because they’re familiar with short story or essay-style writing, where the main point is often saved for the ending.  Commercial publications can’t afford that luxury.  If your main point isn’t in the first or second paragraph, chances are you’ll lose the reader and your place in the publication.

Why should I run this?

As the merits of hundreds or even thousands of media releases that may be eligible for publication are evaluated, there may be a host of reasons for selecting one story over another.  It may simply be that one release is so powerful that it must be used.  But there can be several other factors as well.  It may be as simple as the length of the piece or that the subject matter is particularly timely.  Or perhaps it fits a current theme better than a competitor.  To give your item an edge, read your target publications and do a little research to find out what particular themes may be coming up in future editions that suit your subject matter.

Editing a publication is an enormous task that’s as much art as science.  Editors want strong, topical articles that catch and hold readers.  And, like anyone else, they’ll put out the welcome mat to anyone who can meet their needs and make their lives and jobs a little easier.

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