There are a million articles on the web about “how to write a press release.” The key to a good press release doesn’t lie in simply how it’s structured. A 16 pt bolded headline alone won’t get you across the news gate. The media reads 1 out of 100 press releases that land in their inbox. How do you get yours to be that one? Well, to start, you need these five things:
Seems obvious, right? You’d be surprised how many press releases are sent each hour that ARE NOT newsworthy. Before you take the time to sit down and write a press release for your brand or event, ask yourself: “Is your story news, or it is newsworthy?”. Sometimes, stories can gain far more traction on social media than they ever will in a 30 second news clip. As a small business, your time is already strapped trying to be a one-man army. Use your time wisely to choose the right medium in order to get the most reach for your story. Plus, journalists HATE when you send things that obviously don’t belong in the news. Unhappy journalists can determine your fate.
Dwight Eisenhower said, “Plans are nothing; planning is everything.” Nothing could hold more true when it comes to pitching a story. Blind pitching, pitching a story that’s already been done, journalist email blasts…all of those things will put the nail in the coffin of your press release quicker than what we at RingComm call – piss poor planning. Google is a very powerful tool. Use it. Before you even type the first letter, see what other stories have been written about your topic. See what publications and reporters cover your industry and read them. Get a feel for their tone, audience, and format so that you can be sure what you’re pitching is exactly something they will WANT to read.
A Distribution List
Get this thought out of your head, “I’ll just send it to the main email of all the major news stations and papers.” Unless you have the most amazing breaking news story, you’re release is going to get lost with that mentality. By now, you should’ve finished researching the journalists, shows, etc., that cover your industry. Now is the time to take all that research and put it to good use. A good press release is a targeted one. It’s one that is pitched to the right journalists, at the right publications, with the right story for them. Most small businesses cannot afford expensive public relations software with extensive journalist databases like Vocus or Cision, but that doesn’t mean you’re out of the running to get coverage.
Use tools like Google, Twitter, and LinkedIn to find the contact information and profiles for the journalists you want to target with your release and build your own database with their name, email, publication, topics they cover, style of writing, and Twitter handle. (note: Get on Twitter. It’s where the journalists live.) Grow that list as you go along and determine, for each release, who would find it most newsworthy.
A Trusted Editor
You’ve written what you think is a perfect press release. You’ve looked it over a dozen times. You’re positive it’s well written, grammatically perfect, and void of any possible spelling efforts, right? Here’s a little story. Just this past week I sent a media alert to around 4,000 people about the Athletic Evolution’s viral video to kick-off fundraising efforts for ALS research and Pete Frates.
“Today, Pete can barely through a baseball.”
I read it a hundred times. Every time I read it, I swore it said “throw.” But it didn’t. Luckily for me, the story was compelling enough for most journalists to overlook my spelling error. If it hadn’t been, it would’ve been tossed aside. That’s why it is extremely important for you to have your own personal editor: someone whose opinion you trust, who represents the audience you’re going after with the story, and who can read it and tell you just how compelling and well written it is. If you can’t get it past your own editor, you’ll never get it past a real one.
A Follow-Up Plan
You’ve done your research, crafted a great press release, and sent it to your targeted media list. Now what? It’s important to follow-up after you’ve sent a press release, but you don’t want to annoy journalists by becoming a stage 5 clinger just to get your story published. Here are some tried and true ways to follow-up with a reporter to see if they have any interest in your story:
- Email – It’s ok to send off a friendly email to a reporter seeing if they received your press release and to let them know you’re available to discuss it. Just don’t fire off more than one. If a reporter doesn’t respond to you, there’s no interest. Move on/
- Phone – I’m guilty of hardly ever using the phone. Reporters are so busy that they practically never answer their phone if they don’t know the person calling. However, many do check their voicemails. So, a quick 15 second voicemail with your name and the pitch you sent could remind them to go back and find it in their inbox.
- Twitter – In my opinion, Twitter is a publicity gold. Journalists hang out on Twitter all day promoting their own stories, while searching for new stories and sources. At this point, you should be following the journalists that cover your industry as part of the research process. Engaging with journalists (tactfully and tastefully) is a great way to not only introduce your brand, but to also be able to connect with media to push your release.
Last but not least, I’m a firm believer in the power of “thank you”. If you are able to get coverage for your press release, make sure to thank the reporter who covered it. They’re doing you a great service by publishing your story. Give them the credit they deserve.
Photo credit to iStock