How to Really Get Media Coverage (Hint: It’s not through your press release)

Ever wonder why you sent out a press release and nothing happened?  The reasons probably lie within what you’re sending out, who you’re sending it too and when it’s being sent.

For many journalists, press releases are a quarter-step above SPAM.  And some probably consider them a few steps below.  Here are some things to consider before you start writing your next release.

Let’s start with what you’re sending.

We’ll assume here that you’re sending a press release to garner editorial coverage somewhere and not for SEO related purposes (if it is for SEO, use a newswire instead of spamming our busy journalist friends).  So the release is intended for a journalist at a media outlet, such as Men’s Journal, Outside, Antenna, High Snobiety, Culture Shoq… somewhere where people write about things going on.  If you’re not sending it to someone who is a journalist… that’s another story and we’d ask why you’re sending it out at all.  Would you mass email JPG’s of your brand’s latest ads your friends and colleagues?  Would you hand out the same ad while waiting on line at the post office?

So what are you sending?  Is your new packaging one-percent more recycled than last year?  Does your new t-shirt line now come with the option of orange prints?  Probably not newsworthy.  BUT, these are the sorts of snippets that you may want to include in a round-up release – showcasing multiple touch points for your brand in the news – that you can post on your website, send to the trades for your industry, etc.  That could work.

Anyway, let’s say that your story (not press release) is newsworthy.  Is your release readable, or is it filled with jargon, fluff and poor writing?  Is it paradigm shifting for Web 5.0?  Does it have typos like this blog post?

The release – in a formal sense – should have all the facts and stats a journalist may need to begin crafting a story.  But personalize it with a pitch (more on that below) and explain how this is right for their audience.

If you do have some news, now you have to find the right people it’s appropriate for.  Generally speaking, it’s “your list”.

Before you send something out, think about if it’s appropriate for the people you’re sending it to?  The “PR blast” is a tool that needs to go away… it annoys journalists more than it helps.  In fact, get rid of the list.  Target your press releases with a quick elevator-style pitch – or as some people call it – Tweeting (we’re joking here… kind of).  Put a 3-10 line description – keep it brief and relevant.   If your elevator pitch (or Tweet) sells the story, then the journalist will turn to the release for more.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a PR newbie or have friends throughout the world of journalizing, if your story isn’t appropriate, they’re not going to write about it.   Antenna Magazine does not cover women’s denim or skimboarding events.  At least right now. Surfer’s Village does not cover snowboarding news, so hold off on telling Bryan about that great Gore-Tex jacket you’re company is coming out with – but do tell him about how well your team did at the South Shore SUP BBQ & Bro-Down.  Jeff Koyen from Caveat Viator is not going to cover your new headphone collaboration – unless of course they’re extremely appropriate for travel.  Trust us, Bill hung out with Jeff in Austin last month (name drop!).

When it comes down to “the list”, realize that if your story is appropriate, it won’t really matter if you have all the contacts or not.  You can find them.  Walt Mossberg and the folks @ Cnet will cover your new MP3 player if it indeed does redefine the listening experience for lifestyle consumers with unique audio needs.

In all seriousness (and perhaps as a better example), the crew @ BBPR just did a project involving accessories for firearms enthusiasts… an area where the collective team here has very little background.  That didn’t matter to the client.  We know how to write, how to find the right journalists and how to engage them.   And we didn’t mass blast to Jeff and remind him about some beers Bill may or may not have bought him in Austin.  We have lots of journalists who are our friends that don’t write about our clients.   And by not blasting them with releases that are irrelevant is one way we maintain that friendship.

When are you sending your news?

Here’s a secret… journalists are people too.  They have deadlines and things going on at work besides waiting for story ideas to come in.  Sometimes they work weekends, but many try to have what some refer to as “a life” outside of work too.

So when are you sending your pitch and press release?  Here’s a general tip – don’t email it over the weekend or at 4:30 on a Friday unless you want it to get ignored.  Depending on if you’re targeting print publications (daily, weekly or otherwise), online or TV/radio, you really need to adjust accordingly as well. Don’t just blast out the release to everyone you know.

Putting together a PR program doesn’t require an advanced degree in media relations… most people I know in the industry actually didn’t even study PR in college.  But there is some strategy and thought that you need to have if you want to get your stories covered.  Just spend some time and think about it before you hit the send button… and maybe don’t hit that button at all.

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~ by doubleb on November 9, 2010.

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