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Whether you’re seeking local or national news coverage, media relations is the cornerstone of any successful public relations program. And a well-crafted press release is just the beginning.

The primary purpose of your press release is to interest the media in editorial coverage of your news – for an article, a TV segment or as part of an inquiry for a radio guest interview.

Then there is more work to be done! A respectful pace of follow up email and phone is critical. That is when you can offer each outlet a unique opportunity to cover your news and then stay in touch throughout the coordination to make sure all goes smoothly and on point.

There are many misconceptions about the press release process; your team, board or other stakeholders may view a press release as a final product that will be published in full, as is. While there are online outlets that do publish press releases, a good press release is a tool to help a writer or producer with their own editorial story. A strong press release includes the language and compelling facts to inspire them, giving them a starting point to explore the story in more depth in a way that is most relevant to their audience.

In recent years, the goals of a press release have become blurred, with digital agencies pushing for ‘keyword-rich’ press releases designed more for discovery on the web than to actually reach the reporters who matter to you.

Press releases published on the web can be useful to keep your stakeholders informed about news from your organization, but opinions vary widely about the value of paying for online distribution as a standalone service.

What is a press release?

In its true form, a press release contains the key information about your news, initiative or an upcoming event that a media outlet would find useful to its readers, listeners or viewers.

As PR pros, it’s our job to recommend whether a press release is the best tool for getting our client’s story to the media, or if your news would be better served through a personal pitch or a post-event announcement, a face-to-face briefing or other approach.

When a press release is the right approach, here are some top do’s and don’ts:

Press Release Do’s and Don’ts

DO know your audience, and the reporter – Who are you trying to reach? Is your target audience reading the newspaper you’re sending your press release to, or would another outlet be more effective?  Which reporter or editor typically covers news like yours? Start with the most appropriate reporter, or contact the editor of the section that seems a best fit.

DON’T editorialize– Remember, a press release is not a news story, but a public relations tool used to inspire a news story. Be objective, not promotional.

DO consider newsworthiness – Although your news may be exciting to your organization, it must also be newsworthy to a larger audience. The press release and your cover note should clearly communicate why your news is relevant to the community or farther afield, what is the impact and why people should care.

DO use AP style – You can’t go wrong if you format your press release in the AP (Associated Press) style, meaning they begin with the most important aspect of an event, and end with the least important, and include properly formatted date, contact information, etc.. Pay special attention to the headline and the first sentence of your release –or the ‘lede’ that lures the reader in.  Click here for a simple guide published by wikiHow.

DO consider timing – Has a recent event made your news relevant? Are you trying to get coverage for an event that’s six months ahead? Press releases need to be distributed to the news media at the right time, lest they be forgotten about, but longer in advance for monthly, quarterly and national media outlets.

DON’T fatigue your outlets – Try to time your campaigns without overlap. If there is too much going at the same time pick and choose which stories are the most newsworthy. Also, if you are reaching out to a journalist who is not interested in your story, move on!

DO provide your contact information – Who can the journalist contact with questions or to schedule an interview? You’d be surprised at how many press releases go out without this critical information!

Please… DON’T refer to a press release as a PR – PR stands for public relations.


We hope these tips will help to inspire you to explore the wide world of public relations.

Need help understanding the public relations process and how to adapt it to your organization? Contact us today for a no-obligation consultation. Public Relations, Storytelling, Digital Marketing … we can help you implement a strategy for engagement and growth.

Photo attribution: By Simej (Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL, via Wikimedia Commons

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