Even though we live in an age where it seems like anyone with a phone and an internet connection can be a news reporter, true media outlets still rely on good old-fashioned press releases to help fill their editorial calendars. Getting them to take notice of your press release takes just a bit of insider know-how.
My first paid job in college was, in large part, writing press releases for the university’s marketing department. I loved it and, dare I say, I got pretty darn good at it. More recently, one press release I used over and over during my clients’ 30-day cross country tour garnered more than 30 TV news interviews, a live on-air morning appearance, and print articles in hundreds of newspapers.
See, it’s not just what’s written in the release, it’s what you do with it that counts. Here are five key factors that you need to know before you send out your next press release for a product launch, promotion, or event.
1. The news media wants news.
Sounds like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? Depending on the media outlet, a typical reporter or editor receives hundreds of emails, “news tips” and pitches a day. Only a few ever receive coverage. They need and want news, not promotions.
News is noteworthy information, especially about recent or important events. It’s great that your salon is opening … what makes it newsworthy? Your press release has to be more than straight promotion. How does it relate to recent local events? The economy? Does it provide a local angle on a national news story? Find your news hook. It’s a matter of allocating their resources (reporters and camera crews) to the most stories that will be most interesting to their audience.
2. Time your event around their schedule.
Your press conference, launch, or event stands a better chance of being covered and aired if you keep in mind a few rules of thumb. If you’re going after local TV news coverage, know that assignment editors and news directors typically have a daily meeting around 9 or 9:30 a.m. Get your press release or media alert into their hands before the meeting.
Then, time your event around their “sweet spot” – generally between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Anything earlier and they may not have made their decisions for the day; any later and they’ll be up against deadlines for 4 or 5 p.m. newscasts. If you have a choice of day for your event, try to choose a “slow news day” like a Sunday.
Also when planning your event, consult local calendars for any major events that may pull coverage away from you. Breaking news can’t be predicted, but with a little planning, you can avoid major conflicts.
3. Send your press release to the right person.
For a news-related item (as opposed to a morning show pitch, for example), your target is the assignment editor of the TV or radio station or newspaper. Luckily, most media outlets have all the necessary contact information on their websites. If you cannot find a specific email address, call the newsroom and ask what is the best email where you can send a media alert. In my experience, 99 percent of news folks are very friendly and helpful—after all, they need what you have to offer: a great news story.
4. Follow up. And follow up again.
After you send your press release, call the newsroom to ensure they received your release. Say, something like, “Hi, I’m so and so, and I just want to make sure you received my release about X event and to see if we can get some coverage.” Typically whoever answers the phone also has access to the email system and can find the release. Ask if it’s on the schedule—meaning it’s up for consideration on the day of the event.
Then, on the day of your event, follow up again, around 9 a.m. (before their daily meeting) and after the meeting, too. Be persistent and friendly. If they can’t guarantee coverage, ask if you can send in photos and information after the event for use on their newscast or website. (And then follow through!)
5. Include all relevant information in your release—and offer more.
There are lots of articles and tips online with advice on how to write and format your press release. The most important thing to remember is to provide all the relevant information about your news event (date, time, location and that all-important hook) and include your contact information, your website, and all of your social media accounts. Many times the reporter assigned to your story will pull content off your social media profiles and typically will be in touch with you before coming out to cover your story and interview you. Always be open and the most helpful you can be.
After your story runs, be sure to follow up with the reporter with a thank-you note (an email works well). Keep a copy of the story and save the link to online stories for future use.
Do you have an event, grand opening, or launch you’d like to promote in the media? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s talk about how I might help.