Press, Media and Interviews

Writing a press release

Before you begin to write a press release, think of the intended audience. Ask yourself who you are writing for and plan to write something in a style appropriate to that audience.

The ingredients of a 'good' news story

  • The essential element of a story is that it's new
  • People tend to like to read about unusual events
  • Try to keep it free from strong personal opinion
  • A news story should be concise
  • Include a quote, this often helps bring a news piece to life.

What makes a story interesting?

  • Impact or broad appeal: events that affect many people - the more people, the better the story. For instance, a proposed income tax increase may, at first sight, seem boring; but it has impact, because it will affect many people.
  • Timeliness: news gets out of date quickly. One news outlet, such as the BBC news channel may regard news as being long past if it's a few days after the event, another news outlet such as a parish magazine may not regard news as being old even if it happened weeks in the past.
  • Prominence: stories involving well known places, companies, groups or people will tend to do better.
  • Proximity or closeness to home: events occurring in the newspaper circulation area or the broadcast area are likely to be of most interest.
  • Bizarre or out-of-the-ordinary: unusual events that don't happen every day will generally be more interesting to the readers.
  • The current "flavour of the month": events and situations that are currently in the news will harness more support. So, if your church is supporting a national event that's already in the news, your press release is likely to be picked-up by the press in a way other stories might not be.
  • Human interest: people are interested in people, so personalise your story.
  • Local press and radio will more readily pick-up news of events, appointments, fundraising appeals and anniversaries - and stories with a community focus
  • Above all, stories should be accurate and truthful!

Be cautious using strong opinion

Be careful with "conflict" stories. A journalist may be hungry for sensationalism and could present a strong view quite negatively, so be mindful of this when speaking out strongly on a subject.

Local media

Radio and Television

Local Newspapers

Preparing for an interview

  • An interview is a conversation between two people with different aims. You're the specialist. You have the detailed information. You will know more about the subject than the reporter. And you are there because you have something you want to say.
  • The interviewer's job is to enable you to present the information, explain it fully and in some instances justify your position. The interviewer is looking for a topic that will interest their audience.
  • There is also a third person involved, the listener. Each programme has its target audience and it's their attention you want.

Preparing for the interview

  • When you are approached for a radio or television interview, ask the reporter what areas they want to cover and let them know if there is a particular point that you wish to cover. Remember, you have the information they want. Collect in your mind the main points you wish to put over.
  • Local radio stations may want to do a "down-the-line" interview over the telephone. Find out exactly what the reporter wants to know before you agree to go live or be recorded.
  • If you are called out of the blue for comment on one matter or another, you may need to gather your thoughts before replying. It is quite typical for media teams to take down the question and call the reporter back after doing the research. This is harder to do if you're contacted directly by name in a live environment, but don't be afraid to take your time to gather your thoughts if the subject is sensitive and you need to buy some time.
  • If you're being interviewed on a sensitive subject, plan ahead for what other questions you might be asked and prepare responses for those too.
  • You should ask for the duration of the interview in advance, and what programme it is for. If you don't know the programme, ask the interviewer what sort of audience the show has so you can adjust your language accordingly. If you don't think that show is appropriate for you, do not be afraid to turn the interview down.

The interview itself

  • Switch off your mobile phone. If the reporter is visiting you, try to avoid distracting background noise, but often the real environment you're in will be exactly what they're after.
  • You will have in advance prepared your answers to the questions you are expecting, but you can expect some variation and so if a strange question comes at you out of the blue, don't be afraid to pause before giving an answer.
  • Try to have one point that you particularly wish to emphasis and try to make it in your first answer. Acknowledging the existence of an opposite view will make you appear more human and help your credibility.
  • Remember both you and the interviewer have control over what is said. Try to answer all their questions but use the opportunity to develop the points that you want to make. You should not feel too restricted by the actual questions asked.
  • If you are being interviewed in studio, or on location in front of a television camera, always maintain good eye contact with your interviewer. If you are speaking from a remote TV studio, look straight to camera.
  • Answer briefly, succinctly and with enthusiasm. Avoid jargon and acronyms.
  • Dress appropriately. The way you look and the impression you give often carries equal weight to what you're actually saying! Professionalism, personal experience, authority and a sense of humour come over well.
  • Remember you are not just aiming at a "one-off" interview. Always keep in the back of your mind that you may want to be invited back at another time.
Page last updated: Friday 15th July 2022 2:40 PM
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