In my last blog, I shared the importance of finding and sharing compelling news with the press. With those tips in mind, let’s take a deeper look at how you can help ensure media coverage for your business or nonprofit organization.
Bear in mind that media representatives receive hundreds of emails and phone calls a day. Here are some things to keep in mind to help your press release stand out:
- Why should they care?
This may sound harsh, but the “why” is one of the five W’s that reporters answer (in addition to who, what, where and when). If your topic is not relevant to the stories this particular media outlet shares, it is most likely a wasted effort. Above all, there must be a news component. Without one, your pitch is DOA.
Tip: Make yourself familiar with the various publications, news and radio stations and individual programs you plan to pitch. Doing your homework will help ensure that the most appropriate contacts receive your story idea.
- What’s in it for their audience?
This is a natural extension of the first: Why should their readers or viewers care? What’s in it for them? Are you pitching a story about a topic or business that is not “local” to the coverage area? (Enter the “where”). Wanting to reach customers or sell products/services in a specific geographic area is not the same as living there.
Tip: Present helpful tips on how your product or service can handle common challenges. Or, better yet, relate how your offering coincides with a newsworthy topic, time of year or event.
- Are you using jargon or obscure acronyms?
Reporters and editors receive hundreds of emails and telephone calls a day. They do not have time to decipher cryptic messages. If they cannot determine “what” is the news in the first read (if not the first paragraph), your pitch will be trash-bound. Similarly, unless you’re writing about NASA, AIDS, the FBI or other commonly known abbreviations, spell out the full name, at least on first reference.
Tip: An effective press release should sum up the gist of your message in a sentence or two.
- Are you providing enough lead time?
You wouldn’t expect a friend to attend your event with a day’s notice, so don’t expect a reporter to do so either. With the exception of TV crews, which often assemble news coverage schedules spur-of-the-moment, the press plan coverage days and sometimes weeks or even a month in advance. You could have the best story in the world, but without enough notice – particularly for date-specific events or timely topics – it could go untold. These are instances when the “when” aspect of the inverted pyramid are crucial.
Tip: Determine when you would like to have your story told. Back track from there, analyzing printing and broadcast schedules to identify an ideal time to distribute the press release. Remember, your news likely won’t be shared the day after its release, so plan accordingly.
- Have you covered all the basics?
Even with the continual evolution of journalism, every good story follows the principles of the inverted pyramid. To speak this journalistic language in your press release, answer the five W’s: who, what, where, when and why as close to the top of the release as possible. If you can include the how in the same sentence, even better. You can flesh out your topic in subsequent paragraphs.
Tip: Remember that a press release is meant to whet the appetite of its recipient. It should be kept as short as possible, while still including necessary details.
Theresa Katalinas worked as a print and online reporter and editor for more than a decade before starting her public relations company in 2014. Much of her nonprofit, small business and municipal government clients’ continued success is due to her knowledge of the inner-workings of the publishing industry. For help getting your business or organization the coverage it deserves, email Theresa at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 215-519-8833.