The term ‘press release’ has become outdated these days given that hardly any news goes near a printing press. In this article we swing between this term and the more contemporary ‘news release’ but they are one and the same.
The reason why most news releases get deleted rather than published is because a series of small but killer mistakes are made. Here are some ways to help you increase the chances of free publicity whilst making friends with journalists at the same time:
1. Make sure your story is newsworthy
The most important question to ask to kick start (or end)your article: “who cares?”. Answering this will help you provide a clear, concise, and compelling reason to stick to.
Many resellers often get caught up in their own small wins thinking that it bears as much impact in the wider world than it does in their office. Take a vendor accreditation for example; resellers are typically very proud of these achievements given the amount of leg work put in behind the scenes. However, in today’s world of IT it’s pretty much expected by the customer that you will have a few vendor-specific badges that reflect your abilities. Unless your services add further leverageable value to your customers, it’s something only worthy of your website, newsletter, and blog.
Don’t be like most PR agencies and businesses who send out bland, boring releases that merge all too easily with all the other bland boring releases.
Relevance is the first quality filter that journalists apply to press releases and that’s what makes the headline of your release so important.
2. Ensure your headline is tidy
Now that you’ve ensured that your piece is relevant, you need to grab people’s attention with a compelling headline. It may be a hard hitting statistic to hook the reader into keep reading, or an attention grabbing statement that offers the reader the chance to benefit from the article. Think about your journeys on the motorway or Tweets that only have a certain amount of characters to get your attention.
3. Follow the Inverted Pyramid
Check this out if you aren’t already aware of it. Basically, the inverted pyramid is the plan used to create an interesting news piece. All the important content sits at the top and the general and less-important stuff sits at the bottom. That way, you can hook the reader with a great title and reward them immediately with important content.
When you start out drafting up your article list out the basics in an outline and then flesh it out once you have a flow. Editors tend to cut off a release when their attention starts to wane or they have limited space to print – help them out to help you.
4. Get your timing spot on
There are three aspect to getting timing right. The first is when you are reacting to stories that are already in the news and in this case be sure to offer a new and different angle – do not follow the herd or you will be easily overlooked.
The second aspect of timing is around what journalists call “diary events” such as Christmas, CRN Awards Nights, and large vendor campaigns. These are diary events because everyone knows when they will happen, unlike other news stories such as M&As and survey reports. Because these events are anticipated, journalists can write about them long before they happen. If you think about the industry’s 2013 calendar and note the important events, you could plan to hitch a ride on these easy PR opportunities. Use your time now to ask your target publications what editions they will be working on when and get stories to them at the right time.
The third aspect of timing is what’s known as ‘the news cycle’. This is the process each media outlet goes through to produce news, and differs hugely in length Each news cycle is driven by one thing: an immovable deadline. You need to find out the deadline of the media outlets you want publicity in and approach them at the start of their news cycle… a bit like buying hardware and software and the end of a vendor’s financial year and benefiting from their heavy discounts.
5. Help the journalist
These are typically the bits not for publishing but do need to be read by the journalist:
Avoid attachments: Include the news release in the body of your email and not as an attachment. With the use of mobile technology, we should assume that most journalists don’t want the bother of opening them. Keep it simple and you’ll make it easier on your new ‘friend’.
Include your contact information: Their long and busy schedules means that giving them this kind of information will allow them to quickly follow up with you if they have any further questions. Make sure your contact name and email address is featured towards the top so it can be easily found. Anything you don’t want printed should be headed up with the instructions ‘not for publication’.
Include an ‘about’ section: Helping your journalist (especially if they’re new to the job) to get a quick rundown of who sent it will help them enormously after reading the same type of document over and over again. Write up a short bio – include online links to websites, blogs etc., and you’ll save them time (and a headache!). AVOID JARGON.
Include an ‘end of content’ marker: Using “###” or “-30-” at the end of your release is not always used by journalists but there are some (and their scanning software) that look for this. “/MORE” works well if your article continues onto the next page but try not to fall into this trap as editors often despair of long releases that force them to hunt out the news.
6. Ensure basic housekeeping
Avoid use of ALL CAPS – let the facts and the information to the talking
Check your grammar – don’t irritate the reader by asking them to consider something you haven’t given it due care and attention
Avoid advertisements and hype flags – be careful not to confuse your news article with an advertisement as this will lose the impact you are trying to make. Avoid favouring the exclamation button and the overuse of words such as ‘market leader’, ‘free’, ‘amazing’. Not only do you risk tripping their spam filters but you quickly turn off the very readers you’re trying to attract.
Avoid direct address – Using words such as ‘you’ and ‘your’ can flag your release as an advertisement. Instead use terms that define your audience such as ‘construction’, ‘CFOs’, or ‘salespeople’.
Remember, your press release will get better pick up if it has something unusual, different, or remarkable to talk about. You are battling against hundreds of other press release requests when you submit yours so make sure it counts; journalists get used to recognising names and logos of those who send them poor content and soon learn to ignore them.