A press release is perhaps the best and the cheapest way to get maximum media coverage. In fact, no public relations strategy is complete without press releases. It is usually a one-page document consisting of a newsworthy story. A compelling press release can generate new leads and capture the attention of journalists, prompting them to cover the topic in different electronic and print media.
Unfortunately, most press releases fail to accomplish this goal. Nobody reads them, let alone journalists. More often than not, journalists receive hundreds of press releases daily. They don’t have the time to go through each PR. So, it is essential to make yours stand out in the crowd. Only an exceptionally well-written PR can open the doors to publicity.
Here are a few tips to get you started.
1. Make Sure Your Story Is Newsworthy
You need to consider a variety of factors before writing a press release. But, the first thing you need to ask yourself is, “Is the story newsworthy?” It is a well-known secret that journalists and editors crave a newsworthy announcement with the perfect story angle. So, what kind of information can you include in a press release? You need to consider a scenario that can connect with your audience.
A press release must include actual news. It shouldn’t be boring and/or gimmicky. For example, writing a press release to announce that your office just upgraded the furniture is probably a bad idea. The world doesn’t care about your office furniture. Writing such a PR is a waste of your time and effort. Further, it will make you look clueless and ridiculous. So, make sure your story has a human angle that can be of interest to people, even the ones outside your business.
Here is a list of few newsworthy scenarios.
- New product or service launch
- Opening of a new franchise or branch
- Announcement of new partnerships, mergers, and acquisitions
- Changes in the top management such as hiring a new CEO/COO
- Announcements of new achievements and milestones such as receiving an award
2. Update Your PR Glossary Regularly
PR-writing often intersects with content writing, social media marketing, and mass media communication, among other fields. It is a dynamic process that keeps evolving by the minute. Whether you are a veteran or a newbie, chances are you may stumble upon a new PR term once in a while. So, it is better to update your glossary as often as possible.
Here is a list of must-know phrases for PR professionals.
- Boilerplate: The short company description given at the end of the press release is called boilerplate.
- By-line: A by-line is a phrase or a line that indicates the name of an author or a thought leader in various print and electronic media, including press releases. It can add a sense of legitimacy to your PR.
- Press Kit: This is a set of documents such as press releases, brochures, fact sheets, photos, videos and other relevant material given to the media personnel.
- Under Embargo: Under embargo is a type of press release to be published at an agreed-upon time. It allows you to share upcoming news with journalists before the actual release date. It is a common practice in the PR world.
- Traction: This refers to the media coverage your press release gets from various print and electronic media. The higher the traction, the more publicity your PR generates.
- Head and Deck: The head is the press release headline. The deck is the line followed by the head, which is usually longer than the headline. Both, the head and the deck are the most crucial parts of a PR.
- Crossing the Wire/Sending over the Wire: This term is used to describe the process of sharing the news release with a newswire service provider. The purpose of hiring a newswire service is to gain maximum publicity across multiple media outlets. The term dates back to the times when the news industry used electric telegrams for communication. Today, however, newswire service providers Business Wire and PR Newswire use digital media for PR distribution.
- Exclusive Story: A story that a company agrees to share with only one media outlet in exchange for publishing it.
- Breaking Story: This involves a currently-happening or impending news. It is also known as spot news.
- One-shot Story: This is a story that is published or aired only once.
- Running Story: A running story is often published or aired for a couple of days or even longer.
- Update Story: This piece of new information is about an already running story.
- Round-up Story: This is the summary of a news story. It may or may not include new information. This type of story often relies on a variety of sources for a broader perspective.
- Feature Story: This is usually more descriptive and longer than regular news. Feature story, also known as a feature, is recognized by the quality of the writing.
- Lead Story: This is the most important and, hence, the first story in a newscast.
- Hard News: This is news about a relatively significant event or announcement. Usually, it is up-to-the-minute news or event published timely for maximum coverage. It often takes a factual approach to the story.
- Soft News: This is a story based on background information, prominence or human-interest. Unlike hard news, it emphasizes entertaining or advising the target audience. It is not necessarily important.
- Kicker: This is a brief story, often used for ending the segment of a newscast or the newscast itself.
- Angel Investor: They are wealthy individuals who provide capital for start-ups in exchange for equity. A press release is often used to attract angel investors for fundraising.
- Venture Capital Firm: Venture capital firms also provide capital for start-ups. Unlike angel investors, however, they tend to invest considerably larger sums of money.
- Press conference: It is a meeting between the company representative and a select group of media personnel for distribution of the news or announcement. The purpose of press conference or news conference is to conduct a session where the company’s media representative can answer questions from reporters and journalists.
- Endmark: It is a symbol used to indicate the end of a press release. Most PR pros use “###” or “-30-” sign to indicate the end.
3. Answer the 5 W’s and One H: Key Elements of Newsworthy Story
A press release is incomplete without the 5 W’s and one H. The information given in a PR needs to address Who, What, Why, When, Where and How. Your story should explain –
- Who are the key persons involved in the news or the announcement? They may include CEOs, board members, or founders of the company. Make sure to spell the names correctly, followed by the right title/ designation of the person.
- What is happening or what is your new product/service?
- Where is it happening? Mention the physical location of the event, launch or announcement.
- When is it going to happen? The date and the time of the upcoming news is an important aspect of a PR. Your target audience needs to know the timing of the event.
- Why is your news important? Remember, journalists are flooded with hundreds of PRs every day. They are more interested in knowing what is different about your story.
- Last but not the least, how did your organization come up with this idea, product or service?
Read more about the 5 W’s and one H to understand their impact on the newsworthiness of your press release.
4. Major Components of Press Release
By now, you have probably understood that your PR should consist of only newsworthy stories. However, you need to keep in mind that not all newsworthy stories will get the desired traction in your target publications. Though there are considerable constraints, a well-written press release can be a valuable content marketing tool. It is, in fact, possible to write an excellent pitch despite several press release formatting rules. Just make sure that your PR doesn’t look like a sales pitch.
Here are the major components that can make or break your press release.
Nothing can grab the attention of a reader like a gripping headline, especially if the reader is a journalist or editor. Remember, publishers are swamped with hundreds of e-mails every day. So, a headline stuffed with jargon and buzzwords is less likely to pique the interest of a journalist. Write the title in bold letters with font larger than the body text. Including an actionable verb may take the headline a step further. The headline should be followed by an equally compelling subtitle as well.
As you already know, your press release should include the 5 W’s and one H. Though most PR pros tend to put them in the first two paragraphs of the body, it is better if you can cover them in the first paragraph itself. People usually have a very short attention span. It is, therefore, essential to include the vital information at the top of the page. Make sure to list down important points using bullet points so that the journalists can quickly scan your story.
The press release should clearly mention the timing of publishing your news. You can either send a press release for immediate release or under embargo.
D. Story Angle
Depending on your target audience, you may need to draft more than one versions of your story. Your target audience may consist of tech-savvy publications, people who are more interested in the technical angle of your story. Others may be interested in the financial aspect of your story.
Your PR should end with the word “End” in bold or the ‘###’ or ‘-30-’ sign. It should be written directly above the boilerplate or just below the main body text. Provide your contact details including name, designation, e-mail, mobile and desk number, and physical address as well.
5. How to E-mail a Press Release to Journalists
In the digital world, e-mail is the best and the quickest way to communicate with a journalist or a publisher. However, it is not as easy as it sounds. Chances are, your e-mail may get lost in the crowd of hundreds of similar e-mails in a journalist’s inbox.
To make its presence felt, the first thing your e-mail needs is a catchy subject line. Sending your press release as an attachment will not bear any fruits as most media outlets tend to block them. Besides, most of them don’t have the time or the patience to download and open the attachments. So, make sure to copy paste your PR just below the short introduction in your e-mail itself.
Proofread your e-mail at least twice before hitting the send button. Make sure it is free of typos and grammatical errors. It is a good idea to send photos for better coverage of your story. However, send all news related documents, including the photos, in the follow-up e-mails.
Follow-up is an important aspect of any PR strategy. Journalists are often busy. So, start following-up on your story within 24 hours. You can use the read receipt option to determine if they have read your story or not. Establishing a thriving professional relationship with every journalist will help you in the long term.
Here is a sample e-mail pitch about a healthcare start-up.
6. Select Your Target Audience
A press release is meant to connect you with your target audience. The target audience will depend on the context of your story, the magnitude of your announcement or event, and your budget.
If you are a small business looking for local publicity, you need not concern yourself with national press and media outlets. Instead, focus on tapping the regional print and electronic media as most of your target audience is more likely to follow them. For example, if a local bakery is introducing a new segment of wedding cakes, it may gain considerable traction for its product launch by targeting the following publishers:
- Local press, print, and digital media
- Specialist media such as local food magazines, matchmaking services, and wedding planners, among others
Timing is the key element of a successful press release. Make sure to identify the work pattern and time zones of your target audience.
7. Use Press Release Tools for Better Coverage
Managing a press release campaign is no cakewalk. Fortunately, there are several online tools which can be used to run a successful PR campaign. The following tools can help you get your stories across a range of media outlets like a pro.
1. Google Alerts – This free online tool can be used to track media outlets featuring your company. It can also be used to learn about the latest industry trends in your market segment as well as your competitor’s news.
2. Google Drive – This is perhaps the best online tool that lets you create, edit, and share several types of documents in real-time. You can share documents, spreadsheets, presentations, photos, videos, forms and drawings, among others. The spreadsheet can be used to track your pitch list and published press. You can access all this information from anywhere using a laptop, computer or even your phone without worrying about losing your work.
3. Help a Reporter Out (HARO) – This is one of the most popular online media resourcing services. It allows you to gain access to what journalists and media outlets are craving to know. Registered users can receive up to three e-mails daily, except on weekends, from journalists as well as media outlets.
4. Mail Tester – Mail Tester is an online tool that can be used to validate an e-mail address. You can find out what type of mail server the mailbox is on and why the e-mail bounces.
5. Muck Rack – If you are looking for an online tool to keep track of a journalist’s activities, beat, location, topics, and his/her social media posts, then Muck Rack is your best bet. It can help you search bloggers, online publishers, and magazine editors interested in topics related to your industry.
6. Anewstip – This is a customized search engine. You can use it for finding journalists and media outlets that have recently tweeted on a topic of your interest. There are a variety of search options including the profiles of media outlets as well as journalists, languages, and the trending topics. You can sort the collected information by influence, the number of tweets, or the number of times the person has mentioned your keyword.
You can either use this information for pitching or use Anewstip’s paid services to connect with global media influencers. As it allows you to search the latest tweets and articles based on a keyword, you can easily track a trending topic and the media outlets interested in it.
7. Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer – Online marketers have often stated that the majority of people decide whether or not to read your article based on its headline. The bottom-line is, an emotionally and intellectually-compelling title can capture the attention of your potential readers.
Created by The Advanced Marketing Institute, the Emotional Headline Analyzer is an online tool that determines the emotional marketing value of your headline. You can input your title as well as the industry to find the emotion it evokes. The results will show the percentage effectiveness of your title. Make sure to check more than one title for better results.
8. Connectifier – This is a fantastic tool for sourcing e-mail addresses. To use it, visit one of the potential source’s social media handles to find its e-mail address.
9. SellHack – This is yet another favourite tool for sourcing e-mail addresses. You need only the full name and company name of your potential contact to find his/her e-mail. Just enter this information and hit the search button. After a couple of seconds, SellHack will return with a valid e-mail address.
10. Thrust.io – This works on the same principle as SellHack. It is a free tool, at least for the time being. You need to enter the full name and domain name of your contact. It may not be as accurate as SellHack, but it keeps getting better by the day.
11. Rapportive – This e-mail address sourcing tool works right inside your inbox. After adding the Rapportive extension to your e-mail, just hover the mouse over an e-mail address. If the address is valid, it will show you a complete profile of your contact.
12. Sidekick – This is a simple tool that notifies you if someone reads your e-mail message. Sidekick makes it easier to follow-up with journalists and publishers who are interested in your story.
13. Boomerang – Timing is a crucial element in the PR world. Sending an e-mail at the right time can increase the odds of success considerably. Boomerang is an online tool that allows you to schedule your e-mails to be sent at a later date and time. It also informs you if you don’t hear back from your contacts. This tool is extremely useful for a PR pro, especially if you frequently communicate with people from another time zone.
14. Grammarly – Say goodbye to typos and grammar mistakes. With the help of Grammarly, you can churn out grammatically-flawless content. This app works in your browser as well as the MS Word program.
15. Mention – Looking for an easy-to-use tool for monitoring your media activities? Try Mention. It can be used to track the social influencers in your industry. You can also analyze your competitors and generate new leads using Mention.
16. Media Diplomat – Media Diplomat connects journalists and PR professionals internationally for free. The major media outlets, however, are limited for exclusive members only.
When it comes to gaining maximum publicity and media coverage, nothing works better than a well-written press release. For decades, commercial organizations, institutions, and businesses have relied on press releases for advertising, branding, and public relations. However, writing a compelling press release is no cakewalk. It is a demanding process involving dozens of steps such as drafting an interesting story angle, finalizing a public face (usually a public relations officer) of the company, and identifying niche publishers and media outlets. This post covers the most crucial factors required for writing a killer press release.