PR book On-line Readings in Public Relations by Michael Turney
Working with the media:
Issue media advisories and alerts
© 1998; 2018 Michael Turney Table of contents Practicing Public Relations main page About the author


"I have stopped sending the broadcast outlets and major newspapers a traditionally written news release. Instead, I'm finding success with an outline News Advisory.

"I list the who, what, why, when and where and then add a list of what I feel are some good angles into the story. I'm finding broadcasters very appreciative of the list of angles. Identifying more than one slant to a story increases its marketability and allows broadcasters some ownership to the story."

-- London Mitchell, former news anchor turned PR consultant,
posting to PRForum (listserv), 8/15/94

Media advisories/alerts notify the media of upcoming events or stories.

In issuing a media alert or an advisory, an organization isn't attempting to tell the story itself or to write the story for the media. -- News releases are used for that. -- As the terms themselves imply, alerts and advisories simply notify editors about some upcoming event or announcement involving your organization that they may want to assign their reporters to cover. Whether the reporters cover it or not, as well as how they cover it, is entirely up to the editor.

How often you issue media alerts and how extensive they are will largely depend on the nature of your client/organization. If it's a for-profit business, you may rarely, if ever, issue media alerts because such organizations are under no obligation or pressure to do so.

On the other hand, if you work for a government agency, public official, non-profit or charitable organization, or government-funded corporation, media alerts will be an everyday part of your job. That's because organizations funded with taxes or other public funds are required to "do their business" openly in full view of public.

Government agencies are required to issue media alerts.

The practice of issuing media alerts developed in response to so-called sunshine laws which now exist at the federal, state, and local level. These laws address numerous issues and vary widely from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but their over-arching purpose is to ensure that "government business" is always conducted in the open and with minimal secrecy. Some focus primarily on public access to government records. Others are more concerned with keeping official meetings open to the public and require government agencies, commissions, and board to post and/or publish public notices in advance of their meetings and then, afterwards, to post/publish additional announcements of any decisions made at those meetings that affect the public.

In practical terms, a state or county welfare agency charged with providing financial assistance to needy citizens and responding to abuse prevention or a public works department responsible for maintaining, repairing, and upgrading a city's infrastructure might issue a one or more media alerts each day.

Whether they're required or not, media alerts are a useful tool.

Don't think government agencies that are required to issue media alerts are the only ones who do so or that all media alerts were required. Some practitioners have found that sending some kind of advance notice to the media, whether it's identified as a media alert or not, is an effective way to keep them in the loop about what's going on and what's coming up within their organization. Some of them even claim that the media are more responsive to their releases and news conferences when they've received prior warning that something will be coming their way. Non-profit organizations in particular seem to make frequent use of media alerts as a tool for getting reporters to attend and cover the special events and activities they sponsor.

However, in the case of an important event, -- a major fund-raising activity, for instance -- experienced public relations people won't rely solely on a media alert to garner media coverage. They'll definitely disseminate an alert, but only as one element in a broader, persuasive campaign. It will be followed up with an email, phone call, personal visit, or other gambits to attract the maximum possible media attention.


PDF tip sheet:
How to write media alerts
Provide news to the media
Issue news and feature story releases
Announce really important news:
Host a news conference
Can you spot PR efforts in the news? Keeping pace with changes in journalism Return to overview:
Working with the media

5 Dec 2018