A journalist’s inbox is flooded with press releases every day, and the vast majority of those end up deleted or forgotten. Here are five of the top reasons yours might be one of them (and how you can help it avoid that fate in future).
- Your subject line is a dud
Your email won’t even be opened if your subject line is boring or looks like spam. A rule of thumb: come up with one punchy, informative heading to use both as the headline at the top of your release, and as the subject line of your email. It needs to grab the journalist’s attention and make them want to read on.
- You haven’t done your research
Read the publications you approach before you approach them. Do they publish news about your topic? Don’t send a mass email to every journalist whose details you can find. Instead, develop a short, targeted list of writers who focus on similar stories to yours.
Tweak your release depending on where you’re sending it. A little online research can help you decide which details to emphasise or leave out for different publications.
- Your news isn’t news
A press release can be great free publicity for you and your brand. But it’s not free advertising. It needs to be something your audience will care about – think about the articles you like to read when you’re browsing the internet or flipping through an industry magazine.
Maybe you’ve just launched a product that’s different from anything else on the market or you’ve conducted a survey or study with interesting results. Always ask yourself: would someone outside your business find your news interesting?
- It’s poorly written
If they want to, a journalist should be able to copy and paste what you send them into a story. Write using the inverted pyramid structure. The most important or newsworthy information goes at the top (where you answer the who, what, when, where, why and how) and takes up the bulk of the piece, followed by other important details. Any other general information or minor details go at the bottom. Easy.
As a guide for the type of writing style you should be using, take cues from the publication you’re approaching. Write clearly. If in doubt, read what you’ve written out loud, and listen out for overly long sentences, repetition, or big words being used for the sake of using big words.
- Your press release etiquette isn’t up to scratch
There’s debate on this, but the general consensus is not to send your press release as an attachment. Copy and paste it into the body of your email. (If you must send an attachment, for whatever reason, do not send a PDF. These are horribly annoying to copy and paste from. Don’t do it.)
Don’t make journalists chase you for things. If the publication includes an image with every story (most online publications, for example), include an image with your press release. Even if they don’t, include a good quality, not-too-enormous image, so if they do want to use one it’s as easy possible for them to do so.
Addressing a journalist by name is okay, but don’t start your press release with ‘Hi <name>! Hope you’ve been well!!! :)’ (I’ve seen it done.) If you must include some sort of introductory spiel, think back to number 2 and show you know the publication by mentioning where you think your news might fit in the publication you’re pitching to.
Then, let your well-crafted press release speak for itself.