Gone are the days of newsies peddling papers on the corner and Hearst and Pulitzer battling to build the biggest paper empires.
Today we can choose what media we engage with online, on air, on screen or in print.
With so many media outlets and channels available to spread your message, do you still find yourself wondering why your news isn’t getting picked up? Why it feels like no one is reading your press releases?
At the end of the day, the news media (in all of its forms) still remain a powerful way to share the story of your organization, business or group.
What hasn’t changed, no matter how technology has evolved, is the importance of crafting a thoughtful press pitch/release, one that adheres to journalistic integrity, is presented in the language and format of journalists and answers all the very questions any writer/producer/anchor is going to want to present to their audience.
Read on for some tips to help get your press release read.
No one likes to talk to an empty room.
One of the primary reasons your press release might be ignored is its lack of relevance. Simply put, reread what you’ve written before you send it out and ask yourself, “Who cares?”
Another ribbon-cutting event is exactly what it sounds. Instead of inviting media to it, explain how the opening of the new business or organization is going to impact the community. Another big check photo? Same thing.
Journalists are looking for news that matters to them and their readers/viewers/listeners. If your press release doesn’t offer valuable information or address topics of interest, it’s going in the trash.
Ask yourself, “Is this news important to my target audience?”
Ensure your press release provides answers to the “who, what, when, where, why, and how” questions, and make sure it’s newsworthy.
What makes something newsworthy? We often tell folks to think about the three-legged stool approach – does it have a compelling human story, does it have a quantifiable statistic to back up the impact of that compelling human story and is there a time peg to the whole piece?
Show me why I should care.
Poor Writing and Formatting
A poorly written or formatted press release is a surefire way to turn people away. Journalists receive countless press releases daily, and if yours is riddled with grammatical errors, lacks clarity or isn’t easy to read, it won’t make the cut.
Invest time in crafting a well-written, engaging press release.
Keep it concise, use an active voice and follow a clear structure.
Use bullet points, subheadings and quotes to break up text and make it more digestible.
A word on quotes: Most of them in releases say nothing. They’re rhetoric. Quote people how they talk and add meaningful detail. Authenticity resonates louder than corporate speak in press releases.
Want to really show off?
Follow AP Style, the preferred style and usage guide for journalism and news writing. It gives specifics about how to reference numbers, abbreviations, acronyms and more.
Lack of a Compelling Headline
Your press release’s headline are the first words readers and journalists see. If it doesn’t grab their attention, they’ll move on.
In an online world, your headline is often your subject line. Craft a compelling and concise headline that encapsulates the most critical aspect of your news. Use action verbs, numbers or intriguing statements to make it enticing. Channel your inner copywriter. Better yet, think about how you would tell your mom the news if you only had a few seconds to share.
Even a perfectly written and relevant press release won’t be read if it doesn’t reach the right audience. Sending your press release to a random list of journalists or publishing it on your website alone won’t cut it.
You can utilize press release distribution services to ensure your news reaches journalists and media outlets in your industry.
But the best approach remains putting in a little elbow grease.
Build relationships with journalists who cover your niche to increase the chances of them taking notice BEFORE you send them news.
Set Google Alerts for news in your industry and keep a running list of journalists who are covering news in your space. Meet them for coffee, follow them on their social channels, comment on their stories and create a connection before you’re asking them to share news about you. Send your release to them instead of a general news email at their outlet.
Lack of Multimedia Elements
In today’s multimedia-driven world, press releases consisting solely of text are often overlooked.
Incorporate multimedia elements like images, videos, infographics and relevant links to enhance the appeal of your press release.
Visual content can help tell your story more effectively and engage your audience.
Think about it this way.
If a news outlet wants to share your news, but it doesn’t have an image to go with the written story, how could it put it on Instagram?
Think multi-media and be sure your release does, too.
Your Timing is Off
If you’re trying to get media to an event, don’t send a release out the day before. Consider sending a Save the Date if you don’t have all the information. Compose a media invitation that lists all the relevant details in a bulleted template. You have a better chance of attracting broadcast reporters to an event that’s held earlier in the day, not at 4 p.m., an hour before the evening newscast.
Give the press advance notice about something whenever possible so reporters can plan in advance to attend.
Failure to Follow Up
Sending out a press release is only the first step. Don’t assume that once it’s out there, your job is done. Follow up with journalists who received your release, and be ready to provide additional information, arrange interviews or address any queries.
Don’t send out a release at 5 p.m. Friday when everybody on staff is leaving for the weekend. Provide a contact number that is going to be answered when called.