You want your story to get as much coverage as possible, so you need to make sure your press release is delivering what your target journalists are looking for.
Journalists are inundated with press releases, and they are time-poor. They don’t read every press release they get sent (sorry) instead, they make snap decisions about which to read and which to cover.
I’ve written a few posts about press releases, what works best and what doesn’t based on 20 years of being on the receiving end (links at the bottom).
Among my top tips are to target your press release appropriately, get to the point quickly and stick to the facts – no unsubstantiated marketing speak like ‘leading’ and ‘unique’.
But for this post, I asked some of my B2B journalist friends and former colleagues for their press release dos and don’ts.
Here is what they had to say:
Sophia Furber, reporter, S&P Global Market Intelligence:
Us financial journalists need to back up our stories with numbers, so if you are pitching to the business media, then include useful data points in your press release.
How big was X’s investment/loan? How great do you think Y market opportunity is? How much capital was raised? Which company was bought, and for how much money?
You get the picture.
Including this information in the email header or the opening lines of the press release will get my attention and help me make a quick decision about how newsworthy the story is.
Go easy on the jargon and corporate speak. If you include a quote from the CEO in the press release that sounds like it was generated by a robot, then it’s more than likely that it’s not going to end up in any media coverage.
And lastly, if you are offering up comments on a topic that is in the news (say, a big government announcement or a high-profile bankruptcy) from your CEO or another expert source in your company… actually have an opinion!
Take a stance and have something to say. A nice, punchy quote giving a clear view and a pinch of context can be really useful fodder for journalists writing quick-turnaround analyses and features.
BUT you’d be amazed at how many press releases containing lukewarm and heavily-caveated comments on news or market events land in my inbox. They just aren’t useful.
Liz Morrell, freelance retail and business journalist:
The most important thing about grabbing attention with a press release is its relevance. If it’s topical, has a proper news angle and hooks me, then it will do the same to readers.
A press release that is full of fluff, is self-serving and lacks substance won’t.
Karl Tomusk, deputy editor, PlaceTech:
Walls of text: I want to be able to pick out keywords – who, what, where when – at a glance. Long paragraphs make that difficult.
Break up the text, use bullet points to highlight key points and use bolded text (sparingly – bold too much and it loses impact).
Include one snappy line with extra detail under your headline. That allows your headline to be shorter, and it’s an opportunity to add an eye-catching detail.
It also breaks up the text, making it easier to read.
Consistency is key: If I recognise you or the company you’re writing about and know that you put out interesting content, I’m more likely to spend time reading your press release, even if it doesn’t immediately grab me.
The opposite is also true. Don’t develop a reputation for sending bad press releases because I will likely scroll past them.
Having an ‘About’ blurb at the end is useful, but make sure it says what you do (including links to your site also helps).
Be clear about what you produce/what services you offer, where and for whom.
I don’t care if you’re the leading innovator propelling the industry towards the future. That tells me nothing.
If by the end of the blurb, I’m still confused about what you do, I’ll be frustrated and am unlikely to put in the effort to engage with the press release.
Putting ‘Press release’ in the email subject is a waste of space.
Paul Strohm, managing editor, Real Asset Media:
Clarity is key. A good proportion of press releases overload the first paragraph, often with names, relationships of companies, and ancillary facts that obscure the point of the story.
The journalist then has to disentangle it all.
Sometimes the overly deferential naming of clients gives a clue as to the tortuous approvals path that the release has perhaps taken.
However, these facts could often happily reside lower down the story, and if they are clearly expressed, the journalist is actually less likely to omit them from their version of the story.
One thing that immediately makes me reach for the red pen or the delete key is quotes that begin with ‘we are delighted…’.
These are almost always a waste of space and time.
If the quotes carry some of the facts of the story or a useful amplification or explanation, their survival chances are much greater.
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Hope you found that useful, do put your thoughts and questions, if you have them, in the comments.
Want more tips about press releases? Here are four related posts, and if you still want more, type ‘press release’ into my blog search box for all relevant articles: