As well as time spent on the receiving end, in any given week I will probably write three or four press releases, or press bait, as they should more honestly be called. The subjects differ, but the basic aim remains the same – to get the client media coverage, and whilst you can never guarantee results, you can hedge your bets significantly.
1) It goes both ways
Every paper, magazine and periodical is ravenous for content. They all have pages – physical, virtual or theoretical to fill, so if there’s a story present, you’re doing them a favour by sending your press release over, so don’t hold back.
2) But appreciate what you’re asking
Take the approximate amount of time you have left on earth. Minus off how much of it you’re allocating for sleeping, eating, reading great books and making love (great or otherwise) and a portion of what’s left is what you’re asking the journalist to donate in order to read your press release. The art therefore is to make it appear so alluring that they simply can’t resist and, just as importantly, seem so quick to knock out that they can actually eat lunch for a change.
3) Ask yourself, is it actually newsworthy?
Newsworthy is of course relative to the publication, but at heart is there actually a story? Appointed a new rep for Bolivia? That‘s a story to the right publication. Won an award? Now we’re talking. Just spent £5,000 on a new bathroom? Probably not, unless you want to dress it up as a major infrastructure expansion. Before you fire the next one off, ask yourself why should they care, because if you can’t craft a compelling reason, why should they?
4) Now check for pitfalls
Once the information is out of your hands you can’t control what a reader does with it, so check for potential drawbacks. Divorced your long time business partner? Sure, fire away. Divorced your long time business partner and want to make it abundantly clear that you did all the work whilst they swanned around with a glass of cava in their hands? Perhaps hold off. Your copywriter should equally advise you on what not to write.
5) Pace yourself
Carpet bombing the same small corner of the media universe will eventually desensitise it to you, though you have to balance this with ensuring that you don’t miss out on a juicy publicity opportunity. Luckily there’s no end of locations available – regionals, nationals, magazines, trade press, both online and in print, and if you can’t find a suitable home, you probably don’t have a story.
6) Now rock that headline
You don’t have to go all tabloid on it, but an interesting headline goes a long way. As well as giving the receiving journalist a clear idea of the subject, it also coaxes them to read on, and if it’s really good, they’ll probably just use it.
7) Take a moment to be quotable
Journalists love a good quote, so including something punchy, witty or memorable will greatly increase the chances of your story being adopted. The more quotable you are the better the chances, and as a quote is a direct comment from you it also helps control the message.
8) And finally, follow it up
If and when it becomes a story fire off a quick message of thanks to the journalist. They probably won’t reply, in fact I’d probably guarantee it, but it will certainly be appreciated and chances are they’ll remember you for it, if for no other reason than thanks are a rare and beautiful thing in that particular industry.