What is a media advisory?

Many people in the public relations profession confuse a news release with a media advisory. Yet there are distinct differences between the two in terms of their purpose and format.

A news release is sent to the media with the hopes that they will publish the story, cover your event or write their own story. The information in the news release is intended to be for the public.

A media advisory is written and sent to the media, but is not intended for them to publish it. It is the equivalent of a private invitation to the media.

A media advisory is typically used in conjunction with an event that will soon be taking place such as a press conference or ground breaking. Its purpose is to generate interest among the news media to cover your event, not to attract attendees from the general public.

The format of a media advisory is very different than a news release. A media advisory should be set up in terms of the Five W’s so the news media can quickly read the facts about the upcoming event.

Here is a fictional example:


Foundation to announce major breakthrough in allergy & hay fever research: June 13

WHAT: The John Doe Foundation will hold a news conference to announce a major breakthrough in its research that will have profound implications on the many millions of people around the world who suffer from allergies and hay fever.

WHO: Dr. J.R. Smith, head of research at the foundation, will speak. Dr. Smith has been researching a cure to allergies and hay fever for the past three decades. He is considered one of the most prominent authorities in this field. Three local residents who suffer from allergies and hay fever participated as test subjects in the research. They will also speak.

WHERE: John Doe Foundation headquarters, 345 Berry Lane, New York City

WHEN: 11 a.m. June 13, 2013

WHY: The John Doe Foundation has been a leader in researching a cure for allergies and hay fever, which experts estimate afflict at least one in every 10 people on the planet. The foundation’s research has uncovered a major cause of allergies, which could lead directly to the development of a cure in the near future.


In the above example, you’ll notice the 5 W’s are covered succinctly. A media advisory should never be more than one page.

One thing you’ll notice that is NOT included in the media advisory is the amount of information that would be included in a news release about the same topic. There are two reasons for this:

1. You want to pare the media advisory down as much as you can so you stand a good chance of grabbing the news media’s attention. Look back at my blog post entitled “News Writing with Brevity, Clarity and Simplicity.”
2. When you’re holding a news conference, your intent is usually to announce something newsworthy. Otherwise you wouldn’t be going to all that trouble to plan and hold the event. So you don’t want to put all your news in the media advisory because a reporter might look at it and think they have no need to attend since you’ve already given them all the information they need.

For instance, I once worked with a public schools foundation to organize a news conference about a major grant my employer was giving the foundation. I didn’t mention the amount of the grant in the media advisory. In fact, I didn’t even mention which company was giving the money. The intent was to tease the story so the news media would have to show up to obtain the information.

There are two other elements you could potentially add to a media advisory:
1) Visuals and/or Audio: Because tv stations need visuals and radio stations need audio as part of their stories. Without them, they are not interested. So if you can provide them any type of visuals and/or audio, point it out in your media advisory.
2) Directions: If your event is taking place in a location that might be hard to find, include directions. If you have reserved a special parking area for the media, state that in the media advisory. Make it as easy as possible for the news media to attend your event.

There are some instances where you would want to send out both a news release and a media advisory. I’ll discuss that situation in my next post.

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