Newspapers, websites and broadcast outlets will assess every story they receive not just on its own merits, but also against what else is happening that day in the media.
Having spent more than two decades working on the other side of the tracks as a journalist there are certain things you can do to boost the chances of your press release not hitting the “spike” (that’s journalist talk for being deleted within seconds).
Here’s my 10 Do’s and Don’t.
DON’T – Send multiple emails about the same story. Once you’ve sent a press release, give it at least 24 hours. Then, a follow up asking a journalist to confirm receipt and explaining you are available if they need anything else is perfectly acceptable. Anything more and you will be deemed a pest.
DO – Find out what the publication times are for the outlet you are pitching to. If it’s a weekly paper or magazine, find out the day they go to print. Don’t send them a release the day before and expect it to make that edition. The publication will have a day earlier in the week when stories are pitched at conferences. Find out when it is, and send it then.
DON’T – Take a snub personally. Journalists receive hundreds of press releases a day. A non-reply doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t like the story. There might just be something better that day. Dust yourself off, and go again.
DO – Take time to try and meet the journalists you are pitching to. It’s not always easy, but aim to set aside a day each month to grab a coffee with the journalist. Creating a personal relationship makes all the difference. It won’t guarantee your story makes the paper or magazine, but it will make it far more likely it’s read and considered.
DON’T – Send press releases which are too salesy. It’s a total turn off. You are pitching a story, not an advert. If you receive a reply to your release from the publication’s marketing department you know you’ve strayed too far down the wrong path.
DO – Cut and paste the press release into the body of an email. Attachments are fine, but a journalist is more likely to read a press release if it is in the email itself. If the attachment doesn’t work, or is slow to download, they’ll lose interest.
DON’T send a press release which is over two pages. Releases which run on over thousands and thousands of words won’t be well-received. If you are pitching a special report or annual results create a shorter release, and make clear the fuller results or findings are attached or available if they need.
DO – include pictures, videos and graphics if you can. Publications, especially those online, will be more likely to run a story which they can make visually pleasing on the eye.
DON’T – naturally assume you will get a backlink. Many websites will, but some won’t. Find out before you pitch what the rules are.
DO – Share your release on social media after publication and tag in the publication which ran the story. They will be grateful for it, and will be more likely to use your releases again in the future.
By Nick Owens, founder Magnify PR and award winning campaigning journalist.