Guidelines for Writing for the Media

Guidelines for Writing for the Media

writing guidelines for the mediaDoes writing for the media have you chewing on the end of your pencil?

The following guidelines are good to follow in any kind of writing you do. However, they become particularly pertinent when writing for the media. They should be the starting point for creating any media materials. Remember, we write press releases for distinct purposes: to inform, educate or entertain. Additional information about writing for the media can be found in SCORE Brief 06.09 Creating and Distributing a News Release.

Guidelines for Good Writing-Especially Writing for the Media

BE CORRECT. Credibility is all you have. Can the reader trust your message?

BE CONSISTENT. Choose a verb tense and stay with it. Use simple past or present tense.

BE CLEAR. Use summaries or paraphrases if needed.

BE CONCISE. Make your point fast. Rule of thumb: cut everything by one-third.

BE COHERENT. Use outlines. Use subheads as entry points for the reader, for different subject matter if you have a long release.

BE CREATIVE. Show how people deal with problems. Adapt approaches and ideas from what’s hot in the news today.

BE USEFUL. Will this be useful to the reader in his or her work and life? The most important question is “So what?”

BE USABLE. Is this information presented in a way that people can easily save and refer to? BE ACTION-ORIENTED. Will this prompt the reader to take action?

Seven Steps to Effective Writing for the Media

Beyond the above guidelines, using these steps when writing for the media will help you create stories that will interest the media, giving you a better chance of seeing your communications reported in the news!

1. Use the “WIFM” approach: “What’s in it for me, the reader?” Make it clear how the reader will benefit from this information.

2. Write headlines that use “benefit words” such as “How…” and “Why….” Be creative, make allusions to current news, concepts. Clever or humorous headlines help grab readers’ attention.

3. Use an introductory blurb. The blurb should tell the reader a benefit he will receive from this information.

4. Strive to involve the reader. Make sure your leads use personal perspective: “How you can…., “How Jane Doe….”

5. Aim for writing at the eighth grade reading level. Use short words; write brief sentences. Avoid jargon and overly long sentences.

6. Use strong verbs and active voice. Use verbs that DO things TO things.

7. Think visually. Use visuals such as charts, bullet points and lists to help readers scan information and save them time.

Following these guidelines and steps for writing for the media will have them paying attention in no time.


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