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The press release is not dead – 8 tips on getting it right

by | Jul 17, 2015 | News Release Distribution, Public Relations

Got some great news to share but not sure how to get it out there? Despite what you may have heard, the press release is not dead. It can still be the most effective way to relay information to the press, and ultimately the public. But it does take a certain skill to get it noticed.

Before you even begin, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is my story newsworthy?
  • Would anyone outside my organization even care?
  • Is this a story that would interest me?

If you have answered an honest ‘yes’ to all three, then read on. If not, put the press release on the shelf until you have something truly worthwhile to report.

Here are a few tips on making sure your press release gets read.

  1. Write a killer headlineJust like the subject line of an email or a marketing piece, a great headline will catch the attention of a journalist who gets a ton of these in their inbox every day.Make sure the headline starts with “press release” and ends with a clear and concise message. For example, if you have recently won an award for outstanding work, your headline (and email subject line) could read as follows: “Press Release – Acme raises $1 million for underprivileged children – wins X award”. See what I mean? Clear and concise.
  1. Start with a punchOnce your email has been opened and you have captured the journalist’s attention, make sure the first sentence in your press release really grabs them. Your first line should be a summary of the story (in no more than 15-20 words) and read like the opening of a news story.Best practice for this would be to answer as many of the five Ws (who, what, when, where, and why) in the opening line of your release. Check out your daily paper for some great examples.
  1. Be concise
    Avoid the pitfall of being too verbose. The ideal length of a press release is about 300-400 words, which should equate to about three or four short paragraphs and a couple of quotes. If yours is longer than that, review and delete the unnecessary drivel.And if you have some key points to get across, there’s no shame in using bullet points to make information easier to digest, particularly if you’re including figures or statistics.
  1. Use quotes to provide insight
    Remember, a journalist may end up using the quote in their story word for word so make sure it provides insight and opinion. Ensure it reads like a real person is speaking and not a robot. Don’t use jargon or technical language. If quoting someone in your organization, ensure it is someone who knows their stuff. This is a great opportunity to position them and your company as a go-to source for whatever it is your company specializes in.
  1. Remember who is on the receiving end
    While it can be a useful background document for journalists, a press release isn’t a story. If you want to maximise your chances of getting press coverage, you will have to tweak your idea, and your release, for different publications or programs.
  1. Include a short outline
    This is a great pitching tip as journalists are busy people and get masses of information thrown at them every day. If you can make the process easier for them, then do it. Begin your missive with a short outline of your idea (no more than a paragraph) and where it might best fit in the publication you’re pitching to.
  1. Paste your press release in the body of your email
    Sending your release as an attachment is just one more way to get it ignored. Pasting it into the body of the email beneath your short outline is one more way to make it easy for journalists to pick your pitch. Photos can be helpful if they add something to the story, but avoid sending big files that will clog up people’s inboxes.
  1. Be persistent but realistic
    Most journalists are swamped with press releases, so it may take you a few attempts and a bit of chasing to land press coverage for your business. Don’t give up – determination can take you a very long way.

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Whitney Zelmer
Whitney Zelmer is a content marketer and events coordinator. In her free time, she is an encaustic/mixed media artist.

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