You have a great story pitch, an upcoming event or an important announcement and can’t wait to get the word out to the media.
But before you attach a PDF of your press release and excitedly hit “send” to the 50-plus media outlets in your contacts list, you should consider these tips to increase your chances of getting the news coverage you want (bear in mind, however, that there can be exceptions to these rules):
- Do your homework. While it can be tempting—and a timesaver—to create one single email draft and send your press release to multiple news contacts simultaneously, take a step back. Do your research—find out what regions these journalists cover and what sort of content they deliver to their readers. As a former reporter for a weekly, community-oriented newspaper, I can’t tell you how many emails we received—and ultimately ignored—from organizations and public relations firms operating far outside our coverage region, including Las Vegas. The Wall Street Journal will most likely not be interested in pursuing a story about a nonprofit event in a small town across the country, just as a monthly art magazine probably won’t cover an affordable housing venture. Also, remember to address each journalist (in individual emails) by name in your greeting, and using correct spelling (really, we will like you more if you remember this small detail)!
- Make the information easily accessible. Rather than attach a PDF of a press release to the email, copy and paste the information into the body of the message. If you send an image, try to make it at least 1 megabyte in size and with the appropriate photo credit. You’ll make the reporter’s life just a little bit easier by having everything in one place. Make sure to keep your press release short and sweet, but with all the relevant information. Adhere to the 5 W’s: Who, what, when, where and why is the event taking place? Don’t make a journalist dig through a novel to find the key pieces of information they need.
- Send your press release to everyone at the same time. It’s great when a journalist decides to run with your pitch, but if they see that the same story ran in a competing paper, they may be less inclined to publish it in their own outlet. I can tell you from my own experiences, in many cases we’d nix a pitch if we already saw it had already run somewhere else. There’s so much news to write about, we don’t have time to publish repeats. Bottom line: no journalist wants to appear as though they were the last to know about something newsworthy.
- Respect a journalist’s preferred communication method. If they say no phone calls, they mean it—don’t call. They’re working on multiple stories at once and don’t have time to respond to every single call or message. Also, a good rule of thumb is to avoid following up with a journalist more than twice. If you don’t hear from them, they either may not be interested in your pitch or simply don’t have the time to write about it.
- Respect deadlines. Whether you’re dealing with a daily, weekly or monthly news outlet, be aware of when a reporter needs to have their story on their editor’s desk. If you make yourself available to them for any additional information they need, you may find that the journalists you work with will be more receptive to future pitches from you.
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