We’ve all written more press releases than we can count, and they do the job they’re supposed to do. But, here at PKIDs, we’re also quite fond of mat releases. They reach smaller publications by the hundreds and chances are, the words we write will get published without editing.
They’re a good way to get our news into communities across the country.
A mat release is a short feature story (approximately 400 words) written by you or someone in your organization. It’s distributed to small regional or local daily or weekly newspapers through a service such as NAPS or PR Newswire.
The story is usually run as-is by the editors, but is sometimes given a little editing. Small newspapers like mat releases because most don’t have the budgets to hire enough reporters to create all the features they need or would like, and a mat release is a ready-made story.
Mat releases are usually not too topical, as they take time to get into circulation and they’re picked up and used by editors for months after the release date.
If you include some sort of contest or other fun component in your mat release, it will increase the likelihood of its being picked up by editors. This isn’t always possible, but keep this approach in mind.
Artwork (usually a photo) will need to be included in any mat release you distribute. Editors love artwork and will sometimes use a story, or a bit of it, just to get artwork into their papers.
What A Mat Release Isn’t
Mat releases are not press releases. In a mat release, you share information in the format of a feature story that is of value or interest to a large group of people. You don’t “advertise” your services or products.
As a nonprofit, you should get a discount from the distributor. Even so, mat releases aren’t cheap—costing about $5,000. The upside is that they eventually reach lots of readers, so they’re considered a solid way to spend funds.
Distributors work with you on the writing of your mat release. They want you to be happy and will be diligent about editing and improving your work, if you need the help.
You have about 400 words to tell a story and share your important information.
Sample Mat Release (writtten for a program we did a few years ago, with notes on content)
Silence the Sounds of Pertussis
(The headline matters, so take your time to come up with something of interest.)
(NAPS)—New parents know to vaccinate their babies to protect against a number of childhood diseases. But what about vaccinating themselves to keep from spreading illnesses to their child? (This makes readers curious, so they want to read further.)
Most parents do not think of whooping cough, also known as pertussis, when they think of potential threats to their child’s health. However, this disease is making a strong comeback in the U.S., with a total of more than 25,000 reported cases in 2004 alone. (A strong fact that sets the expert tone of the piece and lets the reader know this is a serious problem.)
Luckily, there is a simple way to ease new parents’ minds: immunize mom and dad with the whooping cough booster. (They’ve heard the problem, and now they know there’s a solution. They want to find out more.)
Because of the growth of this disturbing trend, new mom and award-winning actress Keri Russell is teaming up with the nonprofit organization, Parents of Kids with Infectious Diseases (PKIDs), to launch a public awareness campaign: Silence the Sounds of Pertussis. The initiative aims to educate new parents about the dangers of this disease (especially to babies), and to encourage them to get the Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis booster (called the Tdap vaccine) to keep their babies safe. (Here’s your solution to the problem: Talk about your program, clinic, or other topic you want people to know about.)
A recent study out of the University of North Carolina found that parents are the source of more than 50 percent of infant cases of whooping cough.
“When I found out that parents were infecting their children with this dangerous disease, I asked my doctor what I could do to prevent it from happening to my infant son,” Keri Russell said. “He recommended that my husband and I get the Tdap booster.” (Get some quotes in the piece from spokespersons/experts as this helps keep it personal.)
The Tdap is strongly recommended by the CDC for anyone who has close contact with a baby.
In adults, whooping cough symptoms often disguise themselves to look like a common cold, making the disease difficult to diagnose and easy to spread. (More facts to enhance the piece.)
Babies under 12 months of age are not only the most vulnerable to whooping cough, they are also the age group for which the infection is most life-threatening. Babies too young to have completed their primary vaccine series account for the majority of pertussis-related complications, hospitalizations, and deaths. In fact, more than 90 percent of pertussis-associated deaths were among babies less than six months old.
“The good news is that whooping cough is a problem that has a solution,” said Dr. Gary Freed, Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Michigan Medical School. “If every new and expectant parent receives the Tdap booster before or immediately after the birth of their baby, we could really reduce the risk of young babies getting whooping cough. If you provide care for a baby, talk to your doctor about how to protect him or her from pertussis.” (The “ask” or what you want the reader to do.)
For more information on how you can help Silence the Sounds of Pertussis, visit the PKIDs website. (Give them contact information so they can find out more.)
Are mat releases worth the cost? Yes, if you can include that cost in a grant budget, it is worth it. Mat releases stay out for months and continue getting picked up long past the point you’d think they would. This release that we’re sharing in the blog ran for months and months. We were surprised (and happy) at the shelf life it had, and at the number of editors who ran it.
If you have any mat releases you’d like to share with others, put them in the comments section. We’d all benefit from seeing them!
Remember, these are not advertisements or advertorials. Keep them as features full of information people want, and editors will pick up the stories.
This article comes from PKIDs’ Communications Made Easy program.