Thursday, November 6, 2008

So you want to send out a press release?

So you want to send out a press release? It sounds like a good enough idea.

“People should know about this product.”

“We need to get the word out, get some buzz.”

“We must raise awareness about this important issue, and publicize our work to solve this problem.”

“It’s time to educate the public!”

These are all solid, worthy motivations to crank out the release and hit “send.” But none of them constitute good enough reasons to distribute a press release (more accurately, a “news release”).

It the strictest sense, a news release announces news to media organizations, in hopes that they will report on your announcement. Not to overcomplicate what should be a simple process, but it’s harder than it looks to get coverage. Read on for a breakdown of what’s involved in an effective news release strategy.

The definition of news
News is “new.” Whatever you’re talking about hasn’t happened before, or lately. News is “now.” It is out of the ordinary. Most early journalism textbooks describe the “man bites dog” story. (Dogs bite men every day.) News is the extraordinary, tragic, or sensational. (Think flashing lights and sirens.) If not the “first time ever,” news is the “most,” the highest, strongest, or the longest. News might even be the least, the overlooked, the “best kept secret,” or about the innocent and weakest among us.

News is never common, mundane, ordinary or “as expected.” Find the superlatives in your story, or keep working until you do something (or discover something) that stands out. Only bother to write a news release about something that is truly “news worthy.

The content of the release
You’ve heard of the “5 Ws and an H?” The who, what, where, when, why and how are elemental and elementary to any news release. Be prepared to spell out the details of your announcement. And you might be surprised to discover that the things you take for granted are notable to people who don’t live with your issues every day.

The climate of the newsroom
Most people have no idea how competitive the newsroom atmosphere is. No matter the size of the media outlet, the editor’s inbox is overflowing with news releases. Not only are you competing with all the other providers and suppliers in your field, you are competing with national events, local weather, the big crime story, fires and accidents, and the enterprising ideas that the editors and reporters themselves are developing.

Your subject line is critical. Your lead paragraph must capture the attention and imagination of the editor. Your release must demonstrate that you have the credibility and capacity to help the reporters tell a compelling story for their audiences. The reporters themselves are competing with each other, and with other news organizations. I’m not saying your story cannot compete. I’m just saying that in most cases, you’ve got to hustle to get noticed.

The contacts you are pursuing
Not all reporters or media outlets care about your story, no matter how important you think it is. Discern the outlets and the reporters that have previously shown some interest in your issue. At large, daily general news operations, finding the reporter that is sensitive to your side of the story is even more important. Specialty media outlets may provide coverage more often and in more detail. So specialize! Niche marketing is still “in.”

The follow-up
After you send out your release, it is essential to follow up with a phone call. What are you asking for? An interview, a story, a listing, ink, air time, a photograph. And by asking for such coverage, you are also inviting scrutiny. News subjects feel picked on when reporters call “only during controversies.” The break-through comes when you provide a story that is newsworthy during positive times.

Ideally, you will become a credible resource upon whom the reporter can call when looking for background, perspective or other related contacts.

The results
Regardless of all the high profile, high dollar, whiz-bang advertising strategies you might engage, nothing beats word-of-mouth endorsements. News coverage is a form of word of mouth, but on a grander scale. The impartial opinion of an outsider carries with it a nice aura of credibility. And well placed, such articles and coverage can help you advance your cause.

So, once you decide that you really want to “go public” and pursue coverage by the news media, strap in. The publicity game is a wild one.

Chavis Crew Communications would love to help you plan and execute your campaign. Drop us a line at

No comments: