Just about every PR consultant has heard this lament at one time or another – often, from a prospective client who’s been trying to handle his own PR with little success. Yet even veteran communications pros have experienced the frustration of sending out a news release that never makes it past an editor’s inbox.
To boost your news release pick-up rate, consider the following tips:
Don’t forget the “special sauce”
Be sure your news release includes that secret ingredient the media craves – news. You’d be surprised how many companies send out a “news release” that is little more than a statement of how great their company is. News releases should only be sent out when you have actual news to report: Does your company have a new CEO? Have you received a multimillion-dollar contract? Did you score a major victory in court for your client? Then by all means, send away. But remember: Without the “special sauce,” a Big Mac is just a burger. And without any real news, a “news release” is a waste of an editor’s time and yours.
Have a hook
“Evergreen” is the media term for stories that have no immediate time sensitivity – and as a result, they end up at the bottom of the story-idea pile. To bump your news release up to the top, include a “hook” – a time-sensitive element that requires immediate publication. That’s why press conferences, official product launches and other events are such popular PR tools; they add the urgency of a day and time by which the media needs to cover the story. You can also create that urgency by announcing a new product or initiative: Don’t write a news release about that great product you’ve had on the market for 10 years; instead, announce the launch of your brand new product that will hit store shelves next month. That’s a hook.
Define your target audience
Who are you trying to reach with your news release? If you silently answered “people” or “the public,” be more specific. For example, If your typical customer is a working mother between the ages of 32 and 47 with three kids, where are you most likely to reach her? Parenting magazines and websites might be a good fit. Determining your target audience will help you define your target media list: Not every news release is worthy of coverage in The New York Times – and nothing annoys the automotive editor more than getting a news release about a great new product for cat lovers. Invest a little time in finding out which reporters cover your topic and send your news release directly to them.
Time it right
Poor timing is often the reason a news release never makes it into print. Many newsworthy announcements have gone unnoticed because they were sent out late on a Friday afternoon. (Hint: There’s a reason politicians cop to affairs or other scandals on Friday afternoons; nobody’s paying attention!) In general, aim to distribute press releases both early in the week and early in the day, avoiding holidays. And if you’re having an event that you hope the media will attend, don’t wait until the last minute to notify them. Reporters are busy; give them enough lead time to get it on their calendar, then follow up a day or two before the event with a friendly reminder.
Use the proper format
Like most forms of communication, there’s an established format for news releases. Pick up a copy of the Associated Press Stylebook and review the basic style guidelines regarding capitalization and punctuation errors. (Yes, I know you’re really proud of your title, but unless it directly precedes your name, it shouldn’t be capitalized.) Include meaningful statistics, and use quotations strategically. The more “camera ready” you can make your copy, the greater the likelihood that your news will make it past the media gatekeepers and reach your target audience.
To receive a free critique of your news release, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.