There’s a myriad of questions that spring to mind when it comes to mastering the media – and it’s easy to feel out of your depth.
But with journalists on the receiving end of hundreds of press releases every day – many filled with old news, non-news, or bland quotes – it makes sense to make sure you’re clued up on what will make the cut before your good news ends up in someone’s trash folder.
So, what should be included in your press release and how can you get the best out of the media? Follow our top tips to unleash your inner hack and get your news to the right journalist or publications, at the right time:
Is it a news story?
Unfortunately, journalists can be a tough crowd to impress. Not everything that is of interest to you and your company will be deemed newsworthy. Before you start writing that pithy headline it’s worth putting yourself in the reporter’s shoes and asking ‘so what?’. What makes your story new and interesting enough for a newspaper or magazine to want to cover it. Will it make their readers sit up and pay attention? Sense-check whether your story might be more suitable for a blog or other piece of digital content.
Lose the corporate chat
It sounds old school but the perfect press release should cover the what, when, where, and why. Get straight to the point and don’t bury the newsline under numerous cliches or smart lines that don’t really mean anything. Avoid setting the scene and starting at the beginning – journalists will miss the new part of the story if you tell them the old news first and might even give up reading to the end.
Think about language and tone
Some words and phrases that you might use in a corporate report aren’t suitable for press releases. Avoid words such as ‘thus’ or ‘furthermore’ which you would rarely use in conversation and wherever possible avoid jargon and industry unnecessary technical language. The best way to write your story is to imagine you’re re-telling it to a friend over coffee – tell it exactly how you would say it. A press release doesn’t need to be full of high-brow language or complicated words, its needs to be straight-talking, using natural sentences that you would use when talking.
Stand out quotes
Quotes using phrases such as “we are proud” or “we’re delighted” tend not to be used by journalists. Think of different ways to say the same things others are saying and check in your target publication what quotes end up making it into print. You might use certain phrases like this on your website or internal newsletter but avoid them with the media.
Get to know your target publication
One way you can become more in tune with editors is to get a better understanding of what different formats of stories your target media run – and then decide how to pitch your story. Research past stories – looking at the format, the content and why they ran when they did to help you tailor your approach. Do they run interviews, do they prefer short news stories or long technical features?
And get to know the journalists
If there’s one thing that infuriates journalists, it’s receiving unsolicited and irrelevant press releases or calls from overly friendly PR people they’ve never heard of before. You need to do your homework rather than randomly select journalists to mass email in the hope you strike lucky. Be sure they are the right person and they’re going to be interested in what you have to say before you press send – and if you’ve got a good story don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and tell them about it. Always be formal and courteous – not familiar and overly friendly.
Be pitch perfect
If your story is strong you may want to pitch it to a key journalist. Practice what you’re going to say before and be armed with the key information. Tailor your pitch to the publication and include relevant stats and data, your sources and examples or case studies. But remember a journalist might be on deadline with another story or be short on time so check first if they can speak and always keep it formal and brief. If you’re contacting them by email keep pitches brief and to the point, using clever but informative subject lines to grab attention.
For more advice and support on how you can get your business in front of the right media, contact our team of former journalists at Korero today.