The last thing a reporter/journalist needs is another press release and a poorly written one at that. From my guess and judging by the number of press releases I see published across news wires on a daily basis, my guestimate is that a journalist receives anywhere from 50-200 press releases in their inbox on any given day.
Considering the limited media space available for new stories every day, I’m also guessing that at least 80-90% of those press releases never make it to the news, yet they keep coming. The worst part of it all is that half of those press releases are written by so called PR people and the other half are written internally by some staff person at the company that has the tough job of convincing the media that what they have to share is even news worthy.
I’ve lost count on the number of press releases I’ve written over the years as a communications pro, and while it is often debated on whether or not press releases are still relevant or are effective at all (at least in my case, press releases have been effective at securing media placement) I find that there are a few common reasons why press releases often go unnoticed. For the small to mid-size company that relies on press releases as part of its ‘Do It Yourself’ PR strategy, the good news is that a few changes will greatly improve the effectiveness of a well written news release.
1) Headline is everything.
This is the door opener. It’s the difference between getting your press release read or getting it ignored, and if you’re sending the release via email, a good headline will go a long way with getting your email opened. Headlines should be short, summative, and news worthy. Instead, some of the more common headlines I notice seem more like marketing than anything else.
2) Content is king.
An effective press release answers the 5W’s- Who? What? When? Where? and Why?- in the lead paragraph. After the headline, the content is the most important part of the release and will signal to the reporter whether or not they should continue further. Who is this press release being written for? What is relevant and news worthy about it? When is the best timing for this press release considering other current news? Where would I get most coverage for this release, and most importantly, why should anyone even care?
3) So what?
You have an attention grabbing headline and the content is well written and informative. So what? Why should anyone care about your press release in the first place? Often times, well written press releases never receive coverage because they lack the factor. If at all possible and especially when there’s no hard news to tell, tie your news to a larger news story or a trend in the market.
4) Lost in space.
Another reason why press releases go unnoticed is because they’re sent to the wrong journalist or because it’s mass distributed. The last thing you want to do is get on a journalist’s blacklist because of a mass distributed news release. Know the right beat reporter covering your specific news topic/audience, familiarize yourself with the media outlet’s subject matter, and most importantly, never mass distribute your news release to a bunch of journalists.