HOW TO GET YOUR PRESS RELEASE SEEN – AND HOPEFULLY USED!
News editors usually get countless press releases in their inboxes. So how can you ensure your own one will be read and actually used?
The simple answer is: you can’t ever guarantee it. An absolutely brilliant press release about the most amazing story might not be read and can be easily overlooked when there’s breaking news like an accident, election or job cuts.
HOWEVER – you can certainly ensure your news has the best chance of success by thinking about and acting on the following.
- If something doesn’t sound interesting when you tell your partner/friend, it probably won’t make good copy anywhere – ask yourself if the news is actually worthy of a press release so you’re not wasting anyone’s time, including your own. If there’s no story, wait until you have a proper story before sending anything out. A press release is an opportunity to tell a good story.
- Is there a human factor? People like to read about other people – you can slip in some statistics too, of course, but learning what real human beings are up to is far more interesting than the simple fact of a sales increase. If 20-year-old John from sales has become salesman of the year and is teaching his older colleagues the tricks of his trade, shout about that instead.
- Think as a journalist thinks – who, what, where, when, how and why. Make sure those questions are clearly answered in the press release so the pressed-for-time journo doesn’t need to chase you for extra information. Many media outlets don’t have enough staff, so journalists are usually too busy to call you. Make their lives as easy as possible.
- Have a strong angle, the very essence of the story, in the opening paragraph – if you saw a tiny spider eat a bird, you would say that when telling your friend/partner. Don’t make your sentences too long and don’t put in too much information. Less is more! Editors do cut ruthlessly, starting from the bottom, so ensure the most important information is near the top. At the end, write “ends” then add your contact information: make it easy for a journalist to get hold of you, including by mobile phone. Extra information can be added in a box of text underneath – perhaps some background on your firm and sector.
- Who are you trying to target? Who do you want to see or hear your news? You should use different messages for different audiences. What you say in a local paper will probably be different to, say, a national radio programme or a specialist magazine. Adapt your releases accordingly. And something for television certainly needs to reflect that you have thought about the kind of footage a TV crew could get (and who would be best to interview on camera).
- Get to know deadlines for the media you are trying to engage with eg the deadline for a weekly paper, the deadline for a magazine which may be preparing weeks in advance.
- Ensure your headline reflects the story, but make it short and sweet. Use the same or similar tag in the email subject line to catch an editor’s busy eye. And, use double spacing in the press release to make it an easy and pleasurable read, rather than ‘everythingyouwanttosay beingcrammedinsoyoucangetitononepage’.
- Send good/excellent photographs out with your press releases, with details of who’s in the pics, including who’s on the left, right, centre, etc. If the picture’s not a good one, don’t bother sending it. Be creative so it’s not yet another photo of colleagues smiling in the office, or with a cheque after they’ve raised money for charity. If you’ve got a fantastic picture, it might even get used as a picture story (with just limited words next to it).
- If you don’t want the information released until a certain date, it’s still best to send it out in advance as the release can be added to planning diaries – just add “embargoed” clearly at the top. Otherwise, write “for immediate release”.
- FOLLOW UP WITH A PHONE CALL a couple of days later! You can check the journalist/editor has got your release then you can try to ‘sell’ it to them – sometimes you get lucky and hit them just when they have a hole to fill! Always be friendly and helpful and get their full names, numbers and email addresses for future reference.
Remember – news is about stories, especially unusual ones. Someone eating cereal every morning is not news. But someone finding a finger in their cereal is!
How would you tell your friend/partner about something that’s happened at work? And what would you tell them?