Things to Think About Before Writing a Press Release

I’ve already shared my Dos and Don’ts When Sending a Press Release, now I’m going to let you in on even more insider knowledge in the first of a series of blogs on this rather hefty topic. This blog covers things to think about before writing a press release, a companion guide to June’s blog: How to Write a Press Release.

What and who?

Before you start writing, think about what the story you want to get across is, and who your target readers are.

While all positive publicity is good, seeing a press release through its writing, placement and monitoring takes time – so think about who your target market is and prioritise. Write for your target market first and if you have more time you can always target other markets later.

For some publications, for example Saga, the magazine for the over 50s, the demographic of its readership is obvious. For others this information may be available on its website or by asking for a media pack.

Read the publications you’ve identified

Read the titles you want to be featured in to learn their house styles and individual reporters’ interests and contact details. Research national and trade titles online. Take note of deadlines.

What’s your story?

Don’t just write a press release because business is slow and you want some general coverage. Decide in advance on your story.

How strong the story needs to be depends on the publication. For a local newspaper if you live or work in their catchment area and you are doing something interesting, that is usually enough. A business opening, tick. A successful apprenticeship scheme, tick. Staff doing a parachute jump, tick.

For a regional or national business section or trade publication it needs to be bigger – taking on a significant number of new staff, reaching an important milestone, doing something innovative, offering useful advice to other businesses, commenting as an expert on a topical and relevant issue.

What’s your angle?

Find your angle. In a simple story, there will be one obvious angle. If you have a lot of information to get across or there are a few things happening, think about what is most newsworthy and start with that.

A picture tells a thousand words

It’s always good to supply a high-quality photo to accompany your press release, as it increases the chances of your piece securing a prominent place in your target publication.

If your story is about something that has already happened, send a good photo of the event with your release. If the release is not time sensitive, pay a photographer or get a creative on your staff to take an interesting, good quality photo to accompany it.

If you do all this groundwork you’ll be ready to get stuck in to writing, so please come back in June for How to Write a Press Release.

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Top Six Tips for Talking to Journalists

As a business owner you may have a piece of news you want to share with the media – from an event to winning an award, to sponsoring a school trip. If you’re nervous about approaching the press, here are my top five tips to help you:

  1. Journalists are just real people

Never feel intimidated by talking to journalists. Despite what you may have heard, they’re just real people! Their job is to write stories, so they will be happy enough to talk to you. However, bear in mind:

  1. Journalists are busy, overworked people

So be respectful of their deadlines and pick a good time to call – unless you have a real scoop for them. If their newspaper comes out daily in the morning, then first thing in the morning is furthest away from their deadline. If their newspaper is published every Thursday, then steer clear of Tuesdays and Wednesday mornings.

Also have a clear idea of what you want to say before you call and make sure you have all the information you need to hand.

  1. Take their advice and guidance

Essentially if you’re trying to get coverage for your business through the editorial pages rather than paying for the advertising pages, you need to have a news angle. If the journalist is telling you that what you’re trying to push is an advert and not a story, but they’re kind enough to say that something else you mentioned would make a story – then go with it. They are the professionals, if they say there really is no story then it’s time to call in Datgan, not to get shirty. Which brings me to…

  1. Be polite

Newspapers are private businesses not public services and journalists are professionals, not public servants. Obvious, right? You’d think so, but you’d be surprised how many business owners phoned me up during my career as a reporter making rude demands for coverage. Treat the journalist like you’d treat any other business contact. Maybe even read a few of their pieces first and tell them which one you particularly enjoyed. A good relationship with a reporter can be invaluable to your business.

  1. Don’t be too relaxed

It’s fantastic if you develop a good relationship with the reporter, but remember some key principles. Use positive language, don’t be drawn into commenting on anything controversial, and if you don’t want something attributed to you, then you must state that it is off the record before you say it.

  1. Follow up

If you’ve had a successful interview with a journalist, or sent them a press release they expressed an interest in, keep an eye out for its publication. If it’s not in after a week, ring to politely ask why. It may be there has been a busy news period, staff illness, any number of reasons. Keep in touch politely until the piece is featured, and it doesn’t hurt to phone or email the reporter afterwards to say thanks for the piece.

There we have it, six top tips for talking to journalists. If you still don’t think pitching to the media is for you, Datgan can do it for you. Clients always say I am approachable and easy to talk to, so what are you waiting for?