Five ways to get better coverage of your press release
In our last article we explored the question of whether press releases make sense in a media landscape fractured by new platforms and new channels for audience engagement. The short answer, we believe, is that press releases still have a place in your mix of PR tactics.
That said, there are several important factors that will determine whether your news actually winds up getting covered. Here are a few keys to getting your press release noticed.
Target, don’t spam
Like many PR pros I started my career on the other end of the pitch, working as a news reporter. Back then, press releases would constantly show up in my inbox that had nothing to do with my news beat, my community or my publication. The same releases would often show up at the business desk, the features desk and the sports desk.
That practice has a name: It’s spamming, plain and simple. When it happened to me as a reporter I would spam-filter the person who sent me the release. Too bad if they later sent me something relevant: They’d already lost their place in my inbox.
Yelling louder doesn’t work, which is why we recommend being targeted in your outreach.
Cut the wire
For the same reason, we strongly recommend against using so-called wire services. While the numbers of outlets they touch are impressive on paper, those outlets bury newswire releases in content areas where actual readers almost never see them. And reporters and editors generally never even see them — let alone write about them. Plus, search engines like Google have wised up to newswires, so press releases distributed this way have little to no value for search engine optimization.
Not only are these services a waste of your time, they are a waste of your money. How much money? Upward of $1,000 or more per release for larger services — and that’s not counting the cost of writing the release itself.
Know what’s news (and what’s not)
It can feel like a big step to move into a new office, or to release a new version of your software, or to make your 1,000th sale. Our recommendation in almost all of those cases: Throw a party, don’t pitch a reporter.
Reporters and their editors aren’t in the business of telling the world what’s going on with you. They’re looking for information that would pique the interests (and inspire the clicks) of their readers, viewers and listeners.
Ask yourself: Would the average person on the street grow wide-eyed upon hearing your news? Would people across your industry or consumers in your marketplace immediately retweet the story? If the answer is no, then for heaven’s sake don’t bother a busy reporter or editor with it.
Work hard to make their job easy
So after all this you think you have a real news story. That’s great! Still, if you’re going to ask reporters and editors to cover your news, it’s your job to make it easy for them. Package up everything you can think they might need — including quotes from key people, all the relevant facts, photographs, links and contact information. Write a press release that reads like a news story you might find in their outlets, with a headline that clearly and simply states what’s interesting about your news to their audience.
Reporters should never have to hunt down basic facts about you, your market or your news claims. Make sure it’s right there at their fingertips.
Once you have your materials together, identify one or two people in the newsroom who write or edit stories similar to your news. Email the release to those individuals only, with a subject line that clearly summarizes the news (the headline for your press release should work fine).
Catch ‘em while they’re caffeinated
News reporters and editors work under brutal deadlines every day. The pace of their work is punishing and relentless. Unless they already know you, they don’t have time to be chatty on the phone, much less meet for lunch to hear your pitch.
That’s why you should send your release midmorning on a weekday if at all possible. Avoid sending in the last hours of the afternoon when reporters and editors are pushing toward their daily deadlines. It’s generally okay to follow up with a call if you don’t get a response — but again, make the call a day or two later in the morning, and make it quick: you’re just calling to make sure they received everything they need, not to repitch the story.
At PartnersCreative we’ve found that these approaches help us consistently get news coverage of our clients. And I personally like to think that I’m simultaneously helping make life easier for my former fellow newsroom denizens by following these approaches. In my view, that’s a win-win.