The Press Release Stays Afloat

by Wes Hanson on March 23, 2012

The digital tsunami may have upturned journalism but the media is still paddling around looking for stories. Indeed, the waters have never been more crowded — and old-world press releases remain some of the handiest life preservers. Unlike social media and blogs, press releases are a direct line to journalists, and in the language they speak. They are one of the most effective and affordable ways to promote your business, brand, event, or cause – convincing journalists to tell your story for you, greatly amplifying your marketing budget and efforts.

How to snare the wary scribe? Tell a story and back it up with data. People respond to human narratives, and numbers establish context and importance. Together, they are a strong lure to convince a reporter (or blogger) to cover a story or event. She’s searching for stories, she’s on deadline, and she’s looking for you to do at least some of the reporting (and maybe writing) for her.

Reporters and assignment editors are busier than ever (nowadays they are also expected to blog and Tweet during the workday). While that means they need story ideas, it also means they value press releases that are:

  • Brief – you’re competing with hundreds of other releases in any given week. Get to the point. No one has time for padding.
  • Relevant – use the news to make your pitch topical
  • Factual – avoid biased opinions (“the best ever” etc.)
  • Well written – proofread, proofread, proofread — or risk an immediate trip to the trash can

Pay particular attention to the press release headline – a good one grabs the attention of journalists and bloggers convincing them to read on. The body should deliver on the promise of the headline and answer the very questions the reporter will have to answer in her story: who, what, when, where, why, and sometimes how. To further guide the journalist, the press release writer first asks himself: Who would be interested in the final story (who are the journalist’s readers)? And, then, in a less altruistic vein: What’s MY goal (what am I trying to accomplish by getting the story covered — community awareness, more sales, event participation)?

All that’s the easy part … It’s tougher to get your worthy press release in front of the right eyes. That means before you even start writing you must identify editors, reporters, and bloggers likely to be interested in your pitch. That kind of spade work requires a lot of research and networking.

Do you have the time? Do you have the expertise? Perhaps you should outsource this communication task and concentrate on other aspects of your business.

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