The media relations team in the department of University Communications is responsible for issuing news releases on behalf of the University.
To maintain consistency in all written materials, the University of Waterloo Writing Style Guide is the primary reference text and is supported by the Canadian Press (CP) Stylebook and its companion publication, CP Caps and Spelling. If a word is not found in CP, defer to the Canadian Oxford Dictionary (COD). Nevertheless, where the University Writing Style Guide disagrees with CP or COD, the University Guide will take precedence.
The media relations team request to review all third-party news releases concerning the University to ensure consistency with our style and to monitor the resulting coverage.
Writing press releases
On the whole, faculty communications staff are on hand to support in the development of materials intended for the media, such as press releases. Nevertheless, there may be times when you are asked to put pen to paper. The following are some high level tips for drafting a press release.
- Use an appropriate, catchy headline. For use online, we typically limit the character count, including spaces, to 65 characters. Grab the readers' attention. Avoid overly complex words or concepts.
- The most important point – the news – should be contained in the text at the top of the release and details should follow in descending order of importance. Always start with the news and try to avoid leading with a name or “The University of Waterloo announced today…”
- Use “who”, “what”, “when”, “where”, “how” and “why” to form the basis of a well-written story. The answers to these five questions should appear in the first few paragraphs.
- Paragraphs should be kept as short as possible – they should be no longer than two or three short sentences.
- You should avoid complex sentence structures and use short words rather than long ones.
- Never use jargon, and avoid acronyms or abbreviations.
- Avoid writing releases that are longer than a single page of A4 text in Arial point-11 type.
- Read the release aloud to another person. It should be easy to read and the listener should understand it instantly.
Download our press release template [DOC]
A media advisory is typically much shorter and concise than a press release and is designed to give journalists information about an event with the aim of encouraging coverage. Given the normally short planning horizon of news organisations, advisories are typically sent no more than a couple of days before the advertised event, but this is not a hard-and-fast rule.
The media relations team is responsible for issuing media advisories.
As a minimum, a media advisory should contain:
- A concise summary of the event
- The date, time and location of the event
- An idea of the photo opportunities at the event
- Details of how media should register to attend, if applicable
- Contacts for the media relations team
Download our Media Advisory template [DOC]
Expert advisories are designed to promote researchers at Waterloo who can comment on current news stories.
Often thought of as newsjacking, expert advisories are not limited to breaking news, but tend to be most effective when issued at the outset of a breaking news story. These advisories are most helpful if they also include a quote from the researcher which sums up their top message on the issue.
When an expert advisory is issued, it is essential that the named researcher is available to speak to media at a moment's notice on the day the advisory is issued. Researchers should be prepared to provide full contact details to the the media relations team.
Download our Expert Advisory template [DOC]
The Canadian Institutes of Health Research produces a very helpful guide called the Research-Media Partnership designed specifically to help researchers understand how best to work with the media.