The traditional press release is not dead. It just evolved. Today’s media require extra creativity when pitching news stories to reporters. These 13 tips will help you get the media pitch right.
Press releases are like Kenny from SouthPark. In the last decade, they have been “killed” and brought back to life about a million times. Today, the debate is still heated: should you, or should you not, go out to the media with a press release about your brand?
The reason why this question is still being asked is because the rules of the game have changed. Press releases have lost their power as news sources in the era of digital and social media, and it’s getting harder and harder to make a successful news pitch to a journalist, blogger or influencer.
But this does not mean, though, that the press release died. It just, like anything else in the history of communication, evolved. The question is not whether you should go out with a press release, but how to present it. Yes, the old habit of writing a dry press release and sending it to thousands of journalists probably doesn’t hold water any longer, but a bit of creativity can make it work for you. Here are 13 tips that will pimp your pitch:
1. Find the right target
Let’s start by tackling the biggest problem of traditional press releases: wire sending. When you put a thousand reporters and bloggers in one mailing list and send them all the same press release, what are the chances that someone will catch your pitch and give it a read? Almost non-existent.
It’s better to send the press release to one reporter, who will actually read it and make a story out of it, than to send it to a thousand reporters who will never even open your e-mail.
Choosing the right reporter to hit with your press release is not an easy task, but it’s possible. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What publications does my audience usually read?
- Out of these publications, where would I most like news about my brand to appear?
- Once I’ve chosen my preferred publication – what reporter usually writes articles about topics similar to the ones I’d like to proposal?
2. Find what is important for the target
Once you’ve found the reporter you’d like to target with your press release, go over his/her previous publications. What similar patterns do you recognize? What is usually emphasized in the articles? What excites him / her?
This will give you a hint on what is important for him/her, and what type of information may increase the chances of your press release turning into an article.
3. Personalize your pitch
You’ve put so much effort into finding the right person to pitch – make sure the reporter sees your effort. Don’t write a message that looks like it has been sent to a million reporters: put in the reporter’s name, explain shortly why you chose him / her and why, of all reporters, you think this piece will be most relevant for him / her.
Personalization starts already before the first e-mail. If you just send your press release to a reporter who’s never heard of you before, the chances he/she will read it are smaller. Start cultivating contact with the reporter even before: follow on Twitter and LinkedIn, comment and share articles, make sure the reporters recognizes your name and your interest in his/her work.
4. Consider going exclusive
Part of the reason why mass press releases are no longer working so well is that they don’t have the element of exclusivity. Why would the reporter want to report on something that is published on hundreds of other platforms?
If you care about the quality more than the quantity and want to score an article on a top-level publication, take into consideration that many reporters will require exclusivity. If it’s important enough for you, you should give it to them. This will contribute a lot to the mutual trust between you, and increase the chances of your press release (and future ones) turning into real articles.
5. Find the newsworthy angle
Your brand is the biggest news of the world for you, no doubt about that. For you, your brand or product deserves to be on the cover of Time, Forbes, and WSJ magazines, at the same time. But do other people also think so?
General news about your brand (you’re launching, you exist, you’re starting a new project, you do stuff) usually won’t make the news (unless you are Apple, Google, or the like). Don’t write general information about your brand to a reporter, and expect they’ll make news out of it. What you have to do to increase your chances of making headlines, is to find the newsworthy angle of what you want to say:
Has you brand raised an extraordinary amount of money from a known investor? Has it agreed on cooperation with a spectacular partner?
Have you just invented something incredibly innovative? Have you found the way of solving a major global problem in the world or in your industry?
Do you have a fascinating background story for your brand? Have you discovered something about the world that nobody spoke about before?
If you answered any of these questions with “yes”, this is the road you should go. Make your news story memorable!
When you get dozens of mails every day, all of them looking the same, what are the chances you will remember any of these mails?
The same (and even worse) goes for reporters. You don’t want your e-mail to them to be buried in a pile of hundreds of other e-mails with press releases. You have to be creative, different. You have to surprise, so that the person on the other side can remember you.
Being different can start from a surprising e-mail headline, that is irresistible and leaves the recipient no other option but to open your e-mail. But it can go even further: a message presented in a creative way (e.g.: attached to a small present or with a funny accessory) or in a very personalized way (taking into consideration the reporter’s interests) has bigger chances of breaking the walls of indifference.
7. Be brief
“Ain’t nobody got time for that” says the legendary meme, and it’s right. As much as the story of your brand is fascinating to you, reporters, bloggers and other influential people probably don’t have time to read about it. If they want, they will later get deeper into it – but in the beginning, you have to be brief, to the point, and sharp as a knife. Cut to the heart of the story in the quickest possible way – avoid boring the recipient with long introductions, and get fast to the most interesting parts.
8. Give everything the reporter needs
Making it easy for the reporter to report about your story will increase the chances of your story being told. Not because reporters are lazy – just because having all tools for work makes thing easier, faster, and more probable.
If you just throw one word to the journalist, expecting him/her to do all the rest of the research work, even the most interesting story will require a couple of days, if not weeks, to be completed. But if you already provide with all the necessary numbers, background, links, and even a roughly-drafted text and a potential headline, this process will be shorter. Remember: a good pitch is already a raw article.
9. Get your numbers straight
And not only the numbers. If you’re going to give all the information the reporter needs, it’d better be correct! Otherwise, you will both be feeling very uncomfortable when people start noticing your mistakes. Help mutual trust grow by providing accurate and reliable information!
10. Give added value
A press release, as we are used to it, is a piece of text with information. But does it have to be like this? Absolutely not! For example – how is a reporter supposed to write about your product, if he/she hasn’t even seen or experienced it yet?
Consider what added items can you attach to your pitch (even if it means you have to send it by regular mail, or give it personally, rather than by mail) – samples of a product, pictures, access to additional information. This is not to bribe the reporter, of course, but again, just to provide with optimal conditions for the reporter to write about the topic.
11. Prepare a media kit
To make it easier for you to provide reporters, bloggers or influencers with the necessary information to write about your story, it is common to prepare a media kit. A media kit includes all the necessary information that anyone from the media could possibly ask for while writing about your brand. All the relevant numbers, stories, graphics, pictures, all gathered in one place.
Make sure to include in this media kit not only the information about your brand, but also all the necessary information about the story you are trying to publish: all relevant statistics, research, and background. Again, it’s all about making it faster and easier for the reporters to access information.
When in a hurry, it’s easy to make mistakes. But a stupid typo or misspell can hurt your first image, and discourage the reporter from following up on our story. Be a professional; avoid faux-pas by checking, re-checking and re-re-checking your message and press release.
13. Follow up
Spray and pray doesn’t work. Sending one message to a reporter and hoping he/she will get so interested that they will immediately get back to you and do all the work, is a recipe for disaster. They may forget, not notice, or not even receive your first message, so make sure it gets noticed: follow up by e-mail, by phone, or personally, shortly after sending the press release.
These 13 tips have shown that there is actually a lot of space for creativity beyond the classic press release. The world of news and communications has moved on, and so should we. Yes, press releases are less popular today. A creative, professional and surprising pitch can help you use it to increase your brand visibility.
Start monitoring media and never miss news about your brand!