PUBLISHING YOUR PRESS RELEASE
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ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW about
GETTING YOUR PRESS RELEASE PUBLISHED
Submitting your well-crafted press release is a bit like standing behind the red velvet rope, hoping you have what it takes to make it past the doorman and gain admittance into an “A” list event. The competition is fierce, with only the best of the best making it to the editor’s desk, much less into the hands of the public.
So how can you rise above all others and make your press release gleam in the eyes of the publisher? All you need is a dash of researching skills, a pinch of creative talent, and a sprinkle of media insight, and you’ve whipped up a blue ribbon recipe for a results-oriented press release.
The media mindset is a very powerful entity. What filters through the desk of an editor to the pulse of America is whatever he or she deems newsworthy. Scandals. Tragedies. Triumphs. From international terrorism to Cousin Cathy’s canine hero, the media hold all the cards when it comes to what we do and do not know.
They also decide, to a certain degree, the influence each story has on the public by the size of space they assign to it. Readers are obviously going to focus on a half-size, front-page feature article more than they will a 10-line blurb buried in the back of the local section.
Placement is crucial because it determines how close your news will get to the reader’s eyes. Fortunately, news sells. So garnering attention for your press release will be a little like a sales pitch, without the blatant advertising. Sound impossible? Not when you consider how the media mindset operates.
News is, perhaps, the most rapidly changing industry in existence. One minute, a world leader is an internationally respected figure, and in seconds, CNN or some other 24-hour news circuit has leveled his career with devastating “just released” information. The power they wield is most definitely a force with which to be reckoned. Editors are faced with a stack of news items every day, with only a limited space to position them.
The submissions on their desks rank in order of importance, and from that list, comes the height and width of your column. In order to have a larger piece of the pie, you need to make sure your press release is unique, timely, and important to their audience.
Depending on the relevance of your information, some editors may take the time to rework your release into a suitable style and format for their publication. Don’t give them any reason to choose someone else’s press release over yours.
Space is valuable, whether it’s in the form of print, time on the radio or television. If you want to advertise your product or services, you’ll have to pay a hefty price. This is where the importance of creating an unbiased press release enters. Editors will decide if they want to allow your item free space, in the form of a news story, or if they’ll reject it, and make you purchase an ad block instead.
There are certain rules to play by when dealing with your media contacts. Courtesies and common sense both play an important role in how they view your news. And don’t forget to take into consideration the local tone and flavor of your own community’s press.
Some media giants won’t entertain the idea of publishing local news items that do not affect the country on a whole, even if it’s the New York Times, and your soon-to-be-launched website or product is based out of New York City. But if the information is relevant enough to achieve national interest, then they will consider publishing your press release.
If, however, you are gearing your release to a local audience through a community press market, then do all you can to develop and maintain a rapport with the person or individuals who make the decisions on whether or not to give your item the columns and inches you so desire.
And never, ever address your press release to an editor who no longer works for the company. Take a few seconds to read the latest masthead to find out who the current editor is, and then send it to the right person – making sure to spell the first and last name correctly.
If you’re on friendly terms, the editor might give you inside information or direction on why your press item was denied space in the next issue. As a contributing reporter, which is what a press release writer is, you’re an extension of the news department. So learn everything you can about how to be a team player with each organization. Request their stylebook, or ask if they adhere to any particular news format.
If, however, you discount the style of the paper or other media company, then your value diminishes because you’ve actually added work to their already hectic schedules. If you disregard the pertinent formatting and style functions, then the paid staff has to redo the work you’ve already sent in, whether it’s deciphering and typing your handwritten release, or reorganizing the information so that it can easily be edited and cut where necessary.
Many papers have a small staff, leaving extra work for the editor, such as sorting through the news, choosing photographs to accompany the stories, and plenty of time-consuming administrative tasks. The easier you make it on the editor, the more likely you’ll see your headlines. If you’ve followed the basic rules for the publication, you’ve made the process quicker, allowing the editor to concentrate his or her time on other important issues.
Alternately, if you show little respect to the editor by writing your press release in longhand, and demanding, or assuming that it be in the next issue, you’ll be met with barriers, and will likely ruin your chances that they’ll even consider your next submission. News departments, chained to a volley of strict deadlines, simply do not have the time or manpower to sift through a horde of varying contributor styles and formats.
Therefore, it is in your best interest to follow the publication’s submission guidelines when sending in your news. If you don’t, you run the risk of having your submission thrown away without any consideration from the staff. Busy editors won’t waste time editing for style if they have to rewrite your entire piece, not when another submission might be similar in worthiness, and have the right style for their publication.
Take the time to investigate your target media conglomerates. Find out the structure of who makes the decisions on what goes in, and, just as important, what stays out of the publication. When you get this information, use it to your advantage. Go to the library and research back issues of the publication.
Find out what items they’ve deemed newsworthy in the past, and see what tone, or “voice,” the reporters used. If you can tailor your style to something similar to what the existing decision-maker has accepted for publication in the past, chances are you’ll be on your way to seeing your item in print.
Some media have their style incorporated right into their name. The Republican Times, for example, tells you right upfront that a liberal article on a pro-democratic issue probably doesn’t have too good of a chance to make it into print. Who owns your target publication? Many mainstream media are owned by very large, profitable, and powerful corporations. Be aware that if you’re a competing company, you might not be accepted for the sheer fact of who the “big” boss is.
The media will begin judging your press release from the moment they remove it from the envelope, lift it off the fax machine, or click on their email. First impressions are of utmost importance, so you’d be wise to make sure it’s aesthetically pleasing. Follow proper formatting standards such as typing and font color and size. Don’t get too cute and send it in on rainbow paper to make a splash. You’ll make a splash all right – deep into the wastebasket!
They’ve seen it all, but what it boils down to is “newsworthy” or “not.”
Your first contact with the media should always accomplish the following:
- Get the editor’s attention
- Easily identify your topic
- Showcase your news writing abilities
- Provide verifiable source materials and contacts
Include several easy ways for the editor or reporter to reach you should they have any questions or want a more in-depth article written about your product or services.
If you don’t pique the audience’s attention from the very first sentence, you may have lost them forever. An editor cannot possibly scan each and every press release sent to them to figure out what the writer is trying to say. Make their job easier by stating the facts, but do it in a way that makes it a headline topic.
Instead of titling your release, “New real estate site launched,” try something like “HomeBasePlus emerges triumphant in the battle of technology versus service.” It’s catchy, and the lead sentence can clearly explain what the title hints. Chances are, your headline will be changed anyway, but hook the editor’s eye from the beginning.
Don’t try to impress the reader with overly expressive adjectives or superlatives. They’ll only be edited out, and it gives your press release a phony tone, like that of an advertisement, as opposed to a factual news item. Resist the urge to boast about your product or services. Offer the vital information about the “who, what, when, where, and why,” and let the reader take a proactive approach in discovering its benefits from that point on.
Using quotes from experts or management personnel within the company or industry offers credibility to your press release. Media contacts love to be able to attribute a name to the concepts or opinions found within the piece, so choose wisely, and pick the most authoritative figure possible. Instead of using a positive quote from one of your customer’s, have the President of the corporation say a few words.
If you’re sending in a press release about a soon to be launched website, or a newly formed company, be sure to include a direct contact name, phone number, and email address if possible, so that a reporter can easily find you if he or she has any questions about the information.
While the media are constantly competing amongst themselves to be the first to report (or scoop) headline news, contributors are competing to be that news. Give yourself a head start by learning the publication’s style, and respectfully submit your item to the appropriate contact.
Before you send anything, ask yourself the following questions:
- Did I follow the proper formatting styles seen in a recent issue? Does it need to be rewritten by the editorial staff, or did I manage to develop a clear and concise document?
- Is my information timely? Is it news, or advertising?
- Does it affect the majority of the publication’s audience?
- Are my facts correct, and verifiable?
- Is it objective, or have I approached the topic in a biased manner?
- Have I cut out any unnecessary information or boasting, so that it appears like any other news item?
- Is the press release reader-friendly? Did I use the word “embark” where I could have used “go?” Did I use any “hype” words such as “exhilarating,” or “thrilling?”
- Did I include my contact information so that the editor can easily contact me if he or she has any questions?
- Does the press release urge readers to take a proactive approach in contacting the company or organization for further information?
Once you understand the media mindset, it’s easier to conform to their standards and expectations. Many times, contributors and editors are at odds because they simply don’t understand where the other is coming from. More often than not, an editor has been in the shoes of a contributor, and he or she now understands why editors work the way they do.
The news industry is a rushed and hurried environment, and like other staff departments, anything you can do to alleviate the stress of deadlines and tight spaces will be greatly appreciated. The more you work with your local news, the more receptive they’ll be when it comes time to consider one of your press releases. If they can rely on you to follow simple procedures, leaving them with minimal follow-up work, then they’ll most likely be eager to hear what it is you have to say in the future.
Remember that you, as a contributor, and the editor, who makes the decisions, rely on each other for information and coverage. Without press releases, he may not be able to fill up the space in his paper. And without the editor, you won’t have the news you wish to get in front of the readers reaching anybody.
Public relations officials, and others who write and distribute press releases, sometimes feel dejected when their item doesn’t make it into print over another similar piece. But the editor looks at it from a newsworthy standpoint. Which press release, out of the hundreds, or thousands received each day, has what it takes to be worthy of their reader’s time and attention?
Craft your release well, and you’ll raise your chances of publication immensely.