Journalists get hundreds of press releases every day. If this is news to you then you really, really need to read this article.
The overflow of emails from insouciant PRs and businesses is infuriating, especially when 95% of the pitches keep mucking up on one or even more of the fatal faux pas below. Commit any of the sins mentioned in this article and your press release has as little chance as being covered as a cat stuck up a tree.
You’ve written an awful introduction
Journalists are short on time (Shock! Horror!) and want to be able to understand the whole story in the introduction. If you manage this relatively simple task, then a journo is 100% more likely to read the full release and consider writing up your story.
Write your email subjects like a headline, and your introduction like a standfirst. If you can’t crowbar an original, engaging angle related to your product in these two areas, you’re not going to get covered.The best way to do this is to write your introduction and headline last. This may seem backward but you have a much better idea of what your press release is actually about after you’ve written it. Experiment with a few variations to see what works — there’s always a better approach. Heck, just treat your first paragraph as a tl;dr.
You’re lying, or SENSATIONALISING
You can’t bulls*!t a bullsh*!ter… Journalists are the kings and queens of sensationalism and will be able to see straight through your exaggeration. We all know that the exclusive Formula One ezine you’ve created for Santander is not actually Lewis Hamilton’s toilet reading material, so why lie? You’re wasting space where you could be instead including accurate, interesting information about the story.
Journalists do not want to waste time discerning which aspects of your press release are true and which are not — they do enough of that already. If you build their trust, they’ll read the full story and be less worried about a story you’ve given them turning out to be bogus and landing them in hot water.
You’re being lazy
As JW PR president Jennifer Wezensky says, “if your business is interesting enough to attract customers, then it’s interesting enough for the media.”
But that doesn’t mean you don’t have to package it. Simply sending a journo your product and asking them to write about it is never going to work. You have to mine your business for media-sexy stories and tie them into the current news cycle, framing your product as an element of the evolving, larger narrative.
And sometimes, you have to create your own news. Organising events, participating in fundraisers, partnering with more famous organizations or conducting studies are all great ways of doing this.
You’re contacting the wrong journalist
Journalists will only cover stories that are relevant to their specialization. Are you PR-ing for a new social media website? Do not send your pitch to a health and beauty editor (unless that is, it’s a social media website for people who want to network on all things health and beauty).
Also, don’t send out templates to all and sundry unfortunate enough to be on your media list. Personalize and customize each one to address what each particular reporter will be most interested in.
In fact, why not quit blanket email PRs all together? (i.e. you haven’t adapted to social media)
With social media, you don’t even have to send those annoying emails anymore. On Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and all the rest you can keep up with what stories your target journalists are covering as they’re researching and writing them up.
This transparency in the newsgathering process opens up lots of opportunities for PRs. If you follow or friend the journalists who are most likely to cover your stories, you’ll be able to keep track of a valuable stream of updates, many of which will provide insight into the stories your reporters are working on that very day.
Journalists love to whine, and you’ll often find them expressing their frustration via social media about how their story isn’t working out in a certain way. If you have a connection to their story and can help out, why not reach out to the reporter’s message with a short, simple: “Hello, I see you’re working on a story about [insert your industry here] — maybe we can help?”
It’s such an easy, time-effective and relevant form of PR, helping out journalists when they really need help — the complete opposite of sending those perennial hindrances, the dreaded blanket PR template.
So, maybe it’s time to go friend and follow a few reporters and get to know them properly. They’re hard-working and under pressure: if you frame your PR as a way of making their life easier, they’re sure to thank you for it and get you the coverage you need.
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