What do you want the world to know?
That’s the central question when you prepare to send out a public service announcement or news release. What can you compose that will give you an advantage in getting your PSA announcement on the radio or your local TV station? As a radio news director for 10 years, I’ve seen some of the worst, and a few of the better PSA’s and news releases.
The essential information for a Public Service Announcement (PSA) or a News Release you want to include are the details about “who”, “what”, “when”, “where”, and “how”. Simply, the answers to those questions should be included. But that seems to be where many organizations trip themselves up. They leave out some portion of the essential information. Since many local media people are usually pressed for time, releases that don’t include some of the vital information will likely be tossed in the trash because they don’t have time to follow up to try to get a correction.
One glaring fault on some PSA’s is the lack of a contact person’s name and phone number or another way to get in touch with them. Many times I would have liked to find out more information or get an interview regarding an event, but there would be no information to allow me to contact the person or organization putting out the release. So to make sure you get your message spread the way you hope it would, double-check the basic stuff and make sure it’s in there before you fax it or send it out to the media by other means.
One tip that can literally save your release would be to make sure the text of the message makes sense and is not confusing to the reader. This is another common-sense step, especially for electronic media. Many reporters and news anchors would be happy to read a narrative type release right off the page if it’s written well and not written too sophomoric or slanted.
I urge writers of News Releases and PSA’s to read their stories out loud to themselves and consider how they sound. How easy are they to understand? Consider that the announcer would likely prefer to read the PSA word for word, without having to make a lot of corrections.
Remember to write like it would be read on the air, not like for a newspaper. For example, don’t say “… said Mr. Smith, but say “According to Mr. Smith, …” also, I don’t care for a lot of quoting of the text of what someone said. I do not read any of it in the air. So try to keep that to a minimum. Another trick that could work for you, call the radio or TV station and ask to speak to whoever receives the PSA’s and see if they actually received it and urge them to announce it for you.
To sum up, remember that Radio and TV are different from print media. They have different wants and needs. If you keep that in mind, you will most likely get YOUR news on the air.To sum up