By: Vicky Townsend
As a former member of the media, as well as someone with extensive knowledge of the behind the scenes world of broadcasting, and print, I can tell you that writing a great press release can be the make it or break it puzzle piece in getting your brand puzzle together. I’ve been able to get myself, and my family onto the front cover of the Miami Herald twice, just because of some simple “backstage” information I have that you need to know!
Here are the simple steps you need to take:
1) Know your reporter. Do your research, and find the reporter in the section of the newspaper, or the reporter “on the beat” that covers your business. In my case, we made the front cover because of a charity idea I had to raise money, food, blankets, clothing and more for local charities while we were tailgating in the parking lot before Miami Dolphins games. (you can do some research on that article, under my married name of Pestrichelli) So, I decided that I needed to target two different sections of the paper. One was Sports (remember I was tailgating in the parking lot of a Dolphins football game), and the other was Lifestyles. I made a list of all of the reporters from each section, grabbed their email information and crafted a press release headline that would capture their attention! For the sports reporter, I sent a headline that spoke about the Dolphins, Tailgating, and giving back. The lifestyle reporter received a different headline that started with Charity begins at tailgating in the parking lot of Sun Life Stadium. Guess which reporter called? They Lifestyles reporter. Why? Because the charity aspect of giving back made her heart shine. She opened the email, took it to her editor, and made us the cover story of the Miami Herald, “Tailgaters Adopt a Giving Approach” and many others. Because of the Herald’s story, we managed to make the front page of the Miami Dolphins website, onto it’s own facebook page that someone else made (you can read that story here. It was picked up by hundreds of bloggers. It was nice!
2) Consider your story from the writer’s or reporter’s perspective. Why is this a good story to cover? (Don’t ask a lifestyle reporter to cover the market crash, if it isn’t about how it effects your lifestyle, or ask the sports reporter to write about the trend in matte vs shiny foundations) Why should this writer/reporter take the time to cover it? What is your angle? What is your hook? Consider doing a bit of the leg work for them. Again, in my case, I included quotes and sources from past donations I had made to give me credibility, and to show that I have some staying power. If you do some (not all) of the good legwork for them, you stand a better chance of getting their attention. After all, they are human too, and love to have something that has some of the meat already done for them.
3) Your first two sentences are make or break ones! Make sure they give quick, interesting information about what you are doing, or you lose them! All of the most important points need to be addressed here. You may not get a chance to be seen otherwise. If you’re lucky, they will scan the rest of your release.
4) SEND FREE STUFF! Most writers are freelancers these days, so they aren’t under any obligations to turn down something, especially if you want them to write about it. They will give you the credit, but it’s always nice to have something in their hands to really experience.
5) If you can, consider connecting your story to something else that’s big in the news. i.e., if you are writing about body image, you may want to reference a Hollywood star that is clearly suffering with their image (think Khardashian/Jenner clan!, they’re always in the news!) Make your topic relevant and timely, and you are more likely to get noticed.
6) Make sure you have a grammatically correct release! Know the difference between to, too, and two, and there, their and they’re. Nothing will get you turned down faster than having bad grammar. If writing isn’t your thing, and you don’t know when to use who, and when to use whom, consider hiring someone to do it for you (I can recommend several REALLY good people).
7) Include your contact information!!! Yes, let them know how to contact you! Trust me, many great press releases would come into the radio station with absolutely no way to contact them! Some will simply reply to email, but others want phone numbers, full names, alternate contact people, etc.
8) Include a line about “for more information about us, simply click here and go to our website with url. They want to know about you, see what you are up to, and do their own research first.
9) CALL THEM! Follow up with them. They are always looking for a good story, they may just not have had the chance to look at your release yet. (but don’t be obnoxious about it!) Gently remind them of why your story is one they want to cover.
10) This is the most important tip of all. One that will give you the biggest return on your buck (or time) MAKE IT EASY ON THE REPORTER! Do your job first, create content they can use (think cut and paste) and they will come!!!