Tuesday, May 13, 2014

How to format a media alert? Well, ...

... there's no one correct way,  but here’s one I like:

It's visual, not text-heavy.

An alert is meant to make room on a reporter's calendar. It's a "save the date." The little text there is should help the reporter see why it matters, from the reporter's perspective.​

Honestly, reporters don't care about format. They will appreciate a message in crayon on the back of a napkin if it's relevant to their work on deadline.

The sample above is from Bob Crawshaw, a PR pro in Australia. Here’s his full profile on Google Plus and here he is on LinkedIn. I found him while scanning for less than 20 seconds on this array of images in a Google search.

I didn’t scrutinize the text for news value. I chose this sample for its visual clarity and ease of use.

If you want to know about AP style for formatting in general, here are a few suggestions:
  1. Sentence case for headlines (Bob’s example is all caps, though.)
  2. New rule this year: Spell out rather than abbreviate state names
  3. Single quotes if you need to use quote marks in a headline (or for a quote within a quote)
  4. VP is OK in a headline, but vice president is AP style in body of text
  5. Abbreviate months other than March, April, May, June and July when they are with a date, but spell out all months if they stand alone or with a year only.
  6. Capitalize the R in Room 2.
  7. 11 a.m., not 11:00 a.m.
  8. a.m., not AM
  9. noon or midnight, not 12 p.m. or 12 a.m.
  10. AP style on time zones is difficult because it requires you to know whether it’s standard or daylight-saving time, and different regions do it differently.  I suggest using a service like http://www.worldtimebuddy.com/est-to-pst-converter to make sure you’ve got it right. AP style is EST, EDT, etc.
If you are using a media alert as a "mini press release," rather than a "save the date," consider using a blog post or email instead. Or write a short press release -- there's nothing wrong with brevity!