The press release has been around for almost as long as printed media itself. Done well, this tried-and-tested technique is an essential tool for journalists and can generate large amounts of publicity for relatively little cost.
However, the sheer number of releases distributed every day means competition for journalists’ attention is fierce.
So what can you do to improve the effectiveness of your company’s press relations, and help your releases gain more traction?
Use the Correct Format
Press releases have a defined layout which is expected to be observed and if you don’t keep to the convention, you’ll be on the wrong foot from the start. The most common format is known as AP Style (as drawn up and popularized by Associated Press), and there are many online sources for templates to help you set out your release in the correct way. So no excuses!
Provide Newsworthy Content
Even though your ultimate aim may be to generate publicity, you should never lose sight of the fact that a press release needs to announce something genuinely newsworthy. A busy journalist won’t take kindly to receiving a barely disguised advertisement, and overly promotional releases are a waste of everyone’s time. Trust me on this one, you truly need some news, or at least some extraordinarily good content.
Provide an Angle
This is so important because a good angle is your key to the kingdom. Anything left of center or out-of-the-box will earn you a hug from a journalist. They are more likely to pick up your story if you present them with a unique hook or angle to build an interesting piece around. Adding an element of human interest through a quote or two is the most usual technique for achieving this, rather than simply listing dry technical information. Be clever, provide someone with a wry smile and they will say ‘Thank you, that’s fantastic’.
Keep it Brief
The average news desk will see hundreds of press releases every day, if not more. Because of that, a lengthy, in-depth release won’t be read. Make sure you fit your most important content into no more than about 300 words if you want it to receive any attention. If greater detail is necessary link to a web page.
Provide Comprehensive Contact Details & Be Available
Always ensure your press release provides an easy way of contacting your organization for more information. Rather than simply offering website details or a generic email address, make sure the contact details are for someone who can give interested journalists with more information, supply relevant supporting material such as images, or arrange an interview with the CEO. Consider supplying direct links to further content which can be published freely or used for reference. And most importantly, be available. Personally, I have my cellphone in hand for the first two days after a release goes out. You do not want to miss that call from an editor at the New York Times!
Avoid the Cookie-Cutter Approach
Whenever possible, tailor the release’s content toward the particular audience you’re targeting. You can do three different releases for three different demographics, areas of the country, and platforms. The more directly you can speak to a journalist’s readership, the more likely it is that they will pick up your story.
Have All Assets Immediately Available
Do you have one-minute video with the CEO? Ten photographs of the product or person? A product samples ready to view? List a link so that the journalist can see them. I’m still shocked these days when people make the choice to not to show at least one photo in a press release. I know all words are cheaper but it’s pennywise and pound foolish in this day and age. If I can’t see a product, you won’t get my attention.
Despite their massive popularity, press releases aren’t a silver bullet which will guarantee a deluge of print coverage for negligible expense. However, they are where journalists go – often the first port of call – for all the facts, assets and news. So it’s well worth putting in the extra effort to make each release you write is a cut above the pedestrian.
The potential rewards of a press release that hits home means this is a marketing technique to take seriously indeed, and one worth dedicating resources to.
Additionally, in this era of sometimes fake news, it’s most appreciated when you can substantiate your facts and your data. It shows you in a professional light and is always appreciated.
See you in the news…