The 30-Second Rule

In 1986, Milo Frank wrote How to Get Your Message Across in 30 Seconds or Less, a publication of Pocket Books. Frank’s basic principle of the thirty-second message includes having a clear-cut objective, knowing your listener and what your listener wants, and having the right approach.


  • Have an objective – Having a clear-cut objective involves having a specific idea of what you want to achieve. Ask yourself some questions to help clarify your objective. What do I want to get out of this conversation and why? What is the best possible approach to use?

  • Know your listener – Knowing your listener and knowing what your listener wants from you can help guide you in reaching your goal. Learn as much as you can about your listener and try to identify with them and their position.

  • Use the right approach – Using the right approach involves thinking through what you are trying to say, what your strategy is, your core ideas, supporting information and how the information you are presenting relates to your listener.

  • Grab their attention – Start your message with an opening statement that grabs the attention of the listener. The opening statement should focus on something unique about your subject – perhaps the most unusual,interesting or humorous part of what you have to say.

  • Keep them interested – Make sure that your opening statement also relates to your objective. Be sure it relates to your listener as well and gives them a reason to keep listening. Opening statements sometimes involve visual aids. Sometimes they consist of anecdotes or personal experiences.

  • Ask for what you want – A message without a specific request is a wasted opportunity. A request for a specific action within a specific time frame is more likely to get results.

  • Paint a picture – The words you use should paint a picture that your listeners will remember. Be clear and direct. Personalize the message whenever possible. An emotional appeal can leave a lasting impression. After consistent use, the 30-second message becomes second nature. It creates a whole new mindset and transforms the way you think and deal with others. You will soon find yourself instinctively prepared and using it all the time.


Handling the tough questions

Not everyone will agree with your position. Here are some transitional phrases you can use to get back on track after a tough question:


  • I am not familiar with that, but I can tell you about…

  • You’re absolutely right, and one other point is…

  • I’m sure that’s true, and another thing I sure of is…

  • Yes that can wait until tomorrow, but something that cannot wait is…

  • I agree with you, and I’m sure you’ll agree that…

(Source  – – Communicating with Policy Makers: A Toolkit, Speaking Out)

Preparing a press release


  • Logo, preferably letterhead, or heading.

  • Date of issue.

  • Release date (“immediate,” or “AMs and PMs Tuesday, March 6”).

  • Contact name and office and home phone number (cell phone if available)

  • Headline – succinct and informative.

  • Indented paragraphs five spaces.

  • Double space.

  • 1<< inch margin.

  • If a release runs more than one page:

    • head each page with a shortened version of the headline;

    • use the word “more” at the bottom of each page;

    • Type –30– at the bottom of the release. This is the media’s code version of “The End”.


Content: Who, What, Where, When, Why


  • The lead (first) paragraph must single out the answer to at least two of the five “W’s”.

  • The second paragraph should answer all the others. It helps to have a quotable first paragraph. Pick your priorities carefully. Your lead should tell the reporter what he/she needs to know in order to convince him/her and the editor that the story should be covered. If they aren’t hooked by the lead, they won’t read your release. Releases can be long if you have a long story to tell. But follow the laws of diminishing importance, so that the editor can cut from the tail up.




  • The press release should be in the hands of the media approximately one week before you want it published.

  • Follow up with a phone call when the contact has had time to receive the release. Don’t badger. Just ask if s/he received the release and if s/he needs any additional information.


The press conference


  • The press conference is a particular kind of event, and it can be an important too if used well. Make sure your constituency is present in adequate numbers. Once again, one person should be in charge.

  • the purpose of a conference can be to make announcements and statements; to introduce to the press personalities or specialists with a story; to call new facts and figures to the attention of the public; to launch campaigns and drives. Be sure that the purpose is important enough to bring out expensive TV and radio equipment and make reporters travel.

  • Lead into the name speaker with one or two minor speakers. THe agenda should make the program clear. Once the statement has been made, open the conference for questions.

  • Start on time. Make sure you are never more than 15 minutes late. If most of the media is there starting it rolling.

  • Send out advance notice — 24 to 48 hours, if possible. The notice should be simple, written in release form, but very short.

  • Have a prepared statement — never more than two or three pages long. Have enough copies for all the reporters. Have supporting documents, such as letters or reports, available for reporters.

  • It is a help, but not vital, to have a brief release written in story form to pass out with the statement and to deliver to the media that cannot attend the conference.

  • Don’t give individual interviews to broadcast media or newspapers before you start. Give everyone the same chance.




  • Choose a symbolic place. Choose a geographically practical place, easily accessible to the press.

  • Beg or borrow good rooms from other organizations or corporations. Hotels are in the business of renting rooms and won’t lend them.

  • Pick a room to go with the size of your crowd.Better too small than too big. Make sure the room can accommodate lighting and sound equipment.

  • set up the room so reporters can sit close and cameras can shoot over their heads. The panel should sit together behind a long desk and face the audience (in this case, the reporters) behind which is space for cameras and standing camerapersons.


Tips for writing letter to the Editor


  • Be brief and focus on one issue. Most newspapers reserve the right to edit letters that are too long.

  • If possible, refer to local events or recent articles that have appeared in the newspaper. Include the date and title of any relevant article or editorial.

  • Ask readers to contact their legislators about the issue.

  • GIve your address and phone number. Most newspapers verify authorship before they print a letter.

  • Clip your published letter-to-the-editor and mail or fax it to relevant legislators.



Dealing with TV and radio


Preparing a Public Service Announcement (PSA)


A public service announcement (PSA) is like a press release, but shorter. Because PSAs are heard, not read, they must be interesting, clear, and brief. All the information must be provided in 30 – 60 seconds


PSAs can be used to announce upcoming events; announce a project; identify an issue(s) and explain why you have chosen to be involved.


Allow more advance time or a PSA than for a press release. Be sure to follow up.






(Your organization’s name)


For more information, contact:

Jane Smith, publicity coordinator,

(705) 555-1212

Janet Jones, project coordinator,

(705) 555-2121


Time: 30 seconds

Words: 58


All candidates for the Nipissing District’s seat in the federal election have been invited to participate in an all-candidates’ forum on social justice at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, May 15, at Capital Center, 500 Main Street. Members of the audience will ask the candidates questions at the forum, sponsored by (name and VERY brief description of your organization).


Radio and TV interviews


  • Be brief. Chances are they will only use 20 to 60 seconds. Get the important points in quickly and with punch. Don’t ramble.

  • Speak clearly and firmly, but be natural. Don’t sounds rehearsed or as if you are reading, even if it’s a prepared statement.

  • For TV, don’t stare at the camera. Talk to the reporter in a casual conversation style, but be brief and positive. People watch TV in their living rooms, Act as if you’re talking to someone in the room. Don’t stare downward. Look as neat as possible, even if you’re outdoors.


Tips for getting on radio call-in shows


  • Call in during open forum r relevant discussion.

  • Contact station producers or staff members in charge of bookings to suggest discussion topics and guests.


Placing someone on a TV or radio show


  • Your biggest asset is credibility. If you’ve been getting good coverage, chances are the editors on the show will know what you’re about.

  • The best lead-in is a succinct letter of introduction containing background information plus a clipping or two and suggesting a good news angle for the show in question.

  • Telephone ahead to find out who screens guests and mark the envelope to that person’s attention:


Ms./Mr. Host/Hostess

Name of Show




Attention: Name of contact assistant


  • Follow with a telephone call to the assistant. In most cases,  the assistant does the screening, and you should establish a good rapport with that person immediately.

  • Probe during this conversation and listen for a focus that will satisfy both your group and the host/hostess. Listen for ideas for further material you can submit to bolster your image of newsworthiness.

  • Be patient. Let the show have time to call you. If this begins to seem like never, make a straight-forward inquiry to see if a new angle should be developed. Present your case strongly, but don’t argue — you’ll lose even if you win.

  • If and when your spokesperson is set to appear on a TV or radio show, make sure s/he understands the angle you have agreed on with the producers. Follow this format within reason, but recognize there can be times when the only way to get the message across is for the spokesperson to shift gears in mid-interview.


Other media options


  • Talk to features editors at your local papers and to the editors of disability-related papers. They may be willing to write,or to allow you to write, a longer article about the project or the issues.

  • You may also want to consider publishing announcements of upcoming events, volunteer requests, synopses of the issues, and results of candidate surveys and interviews in newsletters and bulletins.

  • Television and radio talk shows, community service programs, and local cable channels can provide an ideal opportunity to talk about the issues, the project, and the results.

  • Invite reporters to attend and cover events such as issue and candidate forums.

(Source – – DIMENET Network, Citizen Empowerment Guide to Washington)


The Ten Commandments

Ten essential tips to ensure your press release makes the news


1) Make sure the information is newsworthy.

2) Tell the audience that the information is intended for them and why they should continue to read it.

3) Start with a brief description of the news, then distinguish who announced it, and not the other way around.

4) Ask yourself, “How are people going to relate to this and will they be able to connect?”

5) Make sure the first ten words of your press release are effective, as they are the most important.

6) Avoid excessive use of adjectives and fancy language.

7) Deal with the facts.

8) Provide as much contact information as possible: Individual to Contact, Address, Phone, Fax, Email, Website address.

9) Make sure you wait until you have something with enough substance to issue a release.

10) Make it as easy as possible for media representatives to do their jobs.


Make a good first impression


Use 8 ½ x 11 paper.

Use a minimum of one inch margins on each side of the paper.

Use a bold typeface for the headlines to draw attention.


Capitalize the first letter and formal (names of people, places) words in the headline (with the exception of: “a”, “an”, “the”, or prepositions such as: “of”, “to”, or “from”). THe combination of upper and lower case makes it easier to read.


Complete the paragraph on one page instead carrying it over onto the next page.

Use only one side of each sheet of paper.


Use the word “more” between  two dashes and center it at the bottom of the page to let reporters know that another page follows.


– more –


Use three number symbols immediately following the last paragraph to indicate the end of the press release:



Look at your release in its final form. Does it say read me!



How to organise your story:


Keep it simple


Begin with the most important information, the basis for the press release. Next, provide details and facts. Finally, provide the minor details or additional information the reader needs to know.


Most stories begin with a lead sentence to capture the reader’s attention.

Make sure the opening sentence is clear.


Keep it short


Keep it simple. The bottom line is that it is up to the editor how long your press release is. So the rule would be to keep the press release short. This will avoid part of your article being cut. You want to make sure that you tell the “complete” story and not leave anything out. But if you make it too lengthy, the editor may choose to cut part of the story. In addition, if you leave out too much information, you have not provided the reader with what they need to know. If you provide too much, the reader may not read the entire article.


Formatting your press release

How you present your news is just as important as its content.


Mixed case. NEVER SUBMIT A PRESS RELEASE IN ALL UPPER CASE LETTERS. This is very bad form. Even if your release makes it past your associates or managers it will definitely be ignored by journalists. Use mixes case or upper and lower case.


Correct grammar usage. Always follow rules of grammar and style. Errors in grammar and style affect your credibility. Excessive errors will cause your press release to be rejected.


More than one paragraph. It is nearly impossible to tell your story in  a few sentences. If you do not have more than a few sentences, chances are you do not have a newsworthy item.


Summary paragraph. By starting with a one paragraph summary you can quickly help the editor assess the value of your press release. If you fail to include a summary paragraph you may reduce the effectiveness of your press release.


Process your words carefully. Take time to do it right. Write, print, proof read. Rewrite, edit…


Follow the leaders. Make sure your press release looks like a press release. Try to get newspapers, radio and TV stations and other organizations to give you copies of what they consider good press releases. Or, when you see coverage of another organization that likely resulted from a press release ask that organization for a copy of their release. See what you can learn from it.

What not to do


1. Do not make the story too wordy or lengthy. Keep it simple.

2. Do not underline.

3. Do not use all capital letters when typing the press release.

4. Do not ask for pictures to be returned. They receive many photos. It’s best to send a clear copy.

5. Do not send copies. Only send the original press release or camera ready copy in some cases.

6. Do not send copies with stains or marks on the copy.

7. Do not contain misquotes.

8. Do not send copies with misspelled words or improper sentence structure. Have someone else proofread your copy.

9. Do not state your opinion, unless this is to be an opinion column.

10. Do not send pictures that are to appear in the press release without identifying them.

11. Do not send press release with missing information.

12. Do not send wrong information, wrong dates, wrong times and especially wrong phone numbers.


Do not leave out the name of organization that is submitting the press.


Last but not least


1. Keep a copy of the press release once it appears in the paper. Start a file of all the press releases that are published.

2. Place the press release in a central area of your company for all to see.

3. Keep a file of all your originals, in case the newspaper makes an error.


Congratulations! Not all press releases appear in the paper. So congratulate yourself. Place a copy in your portfolio. In the future, the press releases that you submitted may come in handy for a job.


Write right


Use your organization’s letterhead to write the press release.


Double space.


It’s a good idea to use 8 ½ by 11 paper.


Give the exact date of when you want the press release to appear in the paper, rather than ‘next Sunday’.


Write your press release simply, using short sentences and keeping it factual.


Verify all dates, locations and time of events.


Do not give personal opinions.


Provide a contact person with name, address and phone number in case the editor needs to verify the information. The press release will not run if this information is not there.


Provide the address and phone number of the event. Do not just put the street address.


Make sure you being with a sentence that will capture the reader’s attention or spark their interest.


Verify spelling of all names.


Write your article in language that the readers will understand.




If the press release  is to appear in a certain section, try to obtain the editor’s name and send it to his attention. Indicate on all press releases if the article is for a specific area. Example: Entertainment Section.

Calgary media

TV- CFCN #1 news show

Global affiliated = Herald

A Channel Youth Oriented

Radio-CBC – sophisticated audience – professional

Jack FM #1

QR77 talk radio

Print-Herald – serious SUN – working class

FastForward – social issues

City Probe – social issues


* Need to learn reporters interests, politics, surveys, research(hang story on new stat)

* News media want NEWS not opinions human angle (emotion) – local impact Be careful of villians – Highlight heros what’s new here? What’s unique (unlike others) How does your story link with what’s already happening in the news –

How are people affected – where did they come from -Give paper success stories – How can reader help

* Check out who’s reposting on your issues contact reporters directly. NEWS RELEASE – General news – do it well – don’t ask to speak off the record don’t have more than three key messages CLEAR CONSISTENT CREDIBLE TIMELY


– Email reporters with news ideas give instant feedback to media

– Choose the angle of your story – push your agenda get an example everyone can relate to

– Know who in the media to contact

– letting media know at least two weeks advanced

– anytime you protest realise they will stereotype where they can

– media is a tool of the upper middle class

– advertising determines the news

– get poverty message out by scaring middle class – or show how to benefit middle class

– ask yourself 1) why should they care 2) speak the language of the media

– media wants a story people will tell others

– Re: press releases send to proper department

– make sure press releases are accurate and give clear directions/parking

– Cary Williamson Herald (friend of poor)

– Put your own opinions in quotes

– Re: letter to Editor be timely topical, stick to one point it will be edited write three or four times a year not too often


TV – Reporters need new ideas everyday then they need to sell the ideas, when you plan an event have it in the morning not late afternoon in order to meet deadlines.

We need news bites and both opinions

Simple story with emotion

Story must pass the why should I care test


Event – a speaker. a demonstrator. a VISUAL