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Press Pass definition

Press Pass (© Elisabet /

Press Pass (© Elisabet /

If you’re a budding journalist, you will quickly learn that there are a lot of tools you are going to need in order to get the best stories. Of all of these tools, a press pass is one of the most important. It gives you access to important events where breaking news or interesting events with highly influential figures are occurring so that you can cover a story.

If you are a journalist that is trying to establish yourself, you are going to want to gain access to newsworthy events. Whether it’s backstage at a concert gaining access to a location where breaking news event is occurring, you’re going to need to get a press pass.

Press passes give special privileges to journalists. Some offer a recognized legal status, and others simply indicate that you are journalist. The type of benefits a press pass offers is determined by the agency that issues it. There are three different agencies that issue press passes: law enforcement agencies, news organizations and event organizers. Each type of press pass offers different authorizations, so sometimes it is necessary for a journalist to have multiple press passes as the same time.

If you are just breaking into journalism, you will quickly learn that press passes are highly coveted, but they can seem very elusive. You might be under the impression that only the most established and highly recognized journalists are able to acquire press passes, but that’s simply not the case. If you are wondering how to go about scoring your first press pass, keep on reading to find out how you can successfully get one.

What is a Press Pass?

First things first: what is a press pass? It goes by various names, including a photo pass, a media pass, a press credential and a photo badge. No matter what it’s called, a press pass is a badge that gives you special permission to access an event and interview those who are in attendance. The type of press pass you will need depends on the type of event you are trying to gain access to. It’s important to keep in mind that the permissions that media passes offer vary from event to event, so it’s important to ask what you can and can’t do with your pass.

How To Score a Media Pass

Now that you know what a media pass is, let’s talk about how you go about getting one. Traditionally, media passes are only offered to those who are associated with the media, such as journalists that work for the newspapers or magazines, or the person that is in charge of the event. Media passes are very rarely issued to those who are seeking to use stories for their own personal use or to develop a portfolio. If you are trying to acquire a press pass, you are going to have to be on assignment for a publication. Because of the every growing prevalence of magazines, newspapers, blogs and other types of media outlets that are competing to provide event coverage for their audiences, getting a press pass might be easier than you think.

Here are some tips that will help you acquire your own media pass.

  • Be Prepared. You’re going to have to pitch yourself to the media outlet that you want to gain a press pass from. Before you do, you want to make sure that you are ready. Create a portfolio of your work online. You want to include best pieces you have written or photographed. You’re also going to want to include samples from events that you have covered that are similar to the one you are trying to attain a press pass for. You are also going to want to make sure that you have any equipment that you need for conducting interviews or taking photographs once you gain access to the event. Not having the equipment that you need is usually frowned upon. Using a cell phone or a point and shoot camera isn’t considered professional. In addition to the equipment that you need for conducting interviews and taking photos, you also want to make sure that you have a press pass holder on you. Once you gain access to the press pass, you will be able to display is properly.
  • Have an assignment from a media outlet. Find a media outlet that you want to take photos for or conduct an interview for. You have to pitch yourself to the outlet, so make sure that you know what type of publication that would be the most interested in your services. Ask yourself what type of publication would be interested in running your story or publishing your photos? Do some research to find out what media outlets there are and see what kind of event coverage they usually cover. Take a look to see how your style fits into the publication, or if you have a unique viewpoint to offer them. Make sure you are friendly and professional when you pitch the outlet, and that you show them your best samples so that they can gain a real idea of what type of benefits you can offer them.
  • Apply for your media pass. Once you are granted permission from a media outlet to represent them at an event, there are one of two things that will occur: either the media outlet will apply for the press pass for you, or they will ask you to apply for the press pass yourself. If you are asked to apply for the pass yourself, remember that the organization that is in charge of issuing the press pass will vary depending on the event. In some cases, it will be the public relations firm that is associated with the event, the organizer of the event, the corporate sponsor of the event, or the manager of the artist. Find the official website of the event and look for the contact page. Reach out to the media or press contact for the event and find out what the procedure is for getting the pass. Send an email and make sure that it is short, sweet and to the point. Also, don’t forget to include your contact information, the media outlet that you are associated with, and the fact that you are going to be on an assignment.
  • Wait to receive a response. Once you have successfully submitted a request for a media pass, the next part of the process is waiting to receive a response. In some cases, you will receive an approval email several months before the event is set to take place. In other cases, particularly for concerts, you might not receive a response until the day that the event is going to occur. Have patience, but do follow up. Reach out one or two times after you make your request, but don’t overdo it; you don’t want to run the risk of being annoying and ruin your chances of attaining the pass. If you don’t get a response or you are told no, accept it and move on. Find another media outlet to represent and an event to cover. With diligence and a positive attitude, you will eventually succeed with your mission to receive a press pass and cover an event.

When Should You Apply for a Press Pass?

As soon as you hear about the event, you should start taking the steps that are necessary to attain a press pass. The earlier you make contact, the better your chances of receiving a press pass will be. Reaching out early will ensure that you have the right contact information. Plus, you will have more time to locate and pitch media outlets that would be interested in having you represent them and sending you out on an assignment. Also, remember that you should adhere to any media pass deadlines that might be imposed.

How You Shouldn’t Apply for a Press Pass

If you are going to apply for a media pass, you want to make sure that you are on assignment before you do. Applying for a pass without being on assignment will guarantee that you will be rejected. Don’t apply by telling that you want to photograph or document the event so that you can add it to your portfolio, or for other personal reasons.

openPR-Tip: You also don’t want to wait until the last minute to apply for your media pass. If you wait too long, there is a very good chance that your request will be overlooked, which means that you won’t get your pass and you will miss the event.

Final Thoughts

Successfully attaining a press pass so that you can cover an event is one of your first steps to becoming a successful reporter or photographer. Once you have nailed down your first press pass, getting future ones won’t be as difficult, and eventually, it will become second nature. With a press pass, you will be able to establish yourself as a reputable journalist or photographer, which will do wonders for your career.

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