How to get a press release published

Writing and issuing press releases is just one of the many roles Simple Marketing Consultancy in Nottingham completes on behalf of its clients. Consequently, we often get asked about the secrets to our success in getting them published, very often word for word, with little to no changes at all.

We therefore thought we would share a few tips that have helped us gain this valuable source of free publicity on behalf of our clients.

Target Media

Firstly, a knowledge of the online journals and publication(s) that you are aiming to get your PR covered will help. For the purposes of the press release it’s about knowing the different article sizes, word count and styles of articles they publish. This way you can tailor your feature and write the correct amounts of words to fit their usual story size. This is more relevant to magazines and newspapers as space will be restricted. However, it is still relevant for online features as succinct engaging copy will peal the interest of the journalist and also the eventual reader.

Media Relations

Then, it helps if you have a good relationship with the editor/journalist. We always try to get to know our local contacts socially. We don’t get any preferential treatment, but it helps to know what should definitely interest them about a story headline and what is an instant delete! Video calls and email also make it easier to touch base with online and trade journals.

Now on to the actual press release!

If you’re really looking to get media coverage, being able to write an effective press release is an essential skill. 

TIP 1 – Make sure your story is newsworthy

Question numero uno – is it really news or is it a story about your company – i.e. are you after FREE advertising?

Without a strong storyline I can assure you that your story about a new exciting product launch,a new starter or an event is destined for the delete button!

Before drafting your press release, it’s worth asking yourself these questions:

  • What’s new about your story
  • Can you add a spin that makes it unusual or unexpected
  • What will make people care and want to read your story?

Tip 2 – Making it past the subject field scan read

Journalists get hundreds of emails every day, so stating what your press release is about in the subject field is vital. Never just put press release. State the facts. Never be creative or cheesy. That is the sub editors job – just simply state what the PR is about!

So if your story is about the the launch a new office bringing jobs to the region – say that. “Insurance broker opens Nottingham office and creates ten jobs”.

Tip 3 – Keep their interest

If an editor cannot gain the who, what, where, when and why from the first paragraph the story is again doomed for the delete button. This is different for longer length feature articles where a more classical introduction to the facts about the article may be required, but for the press release you need to get past this stage, so don’t make it hard for the journalist. Your first sentence has to grab and retain their attention.

Tip 4 – Add rest of information in decreasing importance

The ideal length of a press release is about an A4 side or about 300 to 400 words. That’s just three or four short paragraphs and a couple of quotes. If your word count is longer than that, you’ve probably got unnecessary words that aren’t needed. Re-read it and make it as concise as possible.

Also, bearing in mind the usual article word count of each media, try to make it easy for the editor to shorten the article. Do the “cut” test!  This means reading the write the press release such that should any one subsequent paragraph get cut out – would the article still make sense and get across the same message?

Don’t be tempted to include background information about your company in the opening paragraph. An immediate sales pitch is a solid turn off.

This, along with any other additional information, goes in a “notes to editors” section at the end, normally on page two with contact details should the editor want more information to expand the story further. If it’s a good story you will be surprised by how often this happens.

If an editor does get in touch, treat them like your best customer. This will help you with future PR. Think about what they have asked and reply promptly. If you need time to think say so, ask about their deadline, write down your answers and get back to them quickly – certainly before the deadline they gave you!

Tip 5 – Quotes

Including quotes from spokespeople in your company can be very helpful.  Regional or trade publications often use them word for word if they provide insight and opinion and sound like a real person has said them and the quote is not full of jargon or technical language. Avoid the sales pitch at all costs! Ensure the quote is written in sharp punchy sentences which, if only one sentence is used, will still get across the right key points and not end up giving a distorted message.

Tip 6 – Manage your expectations

When all said and done a press release has to be news. Just because many media are cutting back on staff it doesn’t mean they shirk their responsibility to publish news and will take anything that is sent their way!

Be very pleased if your press releases only gets a tiny earpiece mention! Many others will have been trashed in favour of your story!

Tip 7 – The Send

When you send a press release it’s a good idea to include a couple of sentences about the press release and where you think it might fit in their paper.

I normally also paste the words of the press release in the body of the email too, as a busy editor may not want to bother opening an attachments

Tip 8 – Photo’s

A picture tells a thousand words. The ideal file size nowadays is about 2mb. Anything bigger and the entire email may not make it past firewalls. Think carefully about your photography and consider getting a professional in.  Also bear in mind the orientation of the photo. Most media like landscape photo’s. This may mean rotating your smartphone to capture the right image.

Wherever possible there is still no substitute for a photo taken by a professional as they will ensure lighting and positioning is correct.

Finally, when positioning people avoid boring line up’s, watch for items in the background and remove them, and as people take off badges, lanyards and lapel pins etc. It’s also a good idea to have the main spokesperson positioned to the far right as you look at the camera so that when the photo is caption L-R they are named first!

Good luck!

Our article on using photography for PR may also help.

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