Media releases are designed to announce something new, timely or relevant. They arrive, by the hundreds, into the inboxes of busy journalists each day. These journalists, aside from conducting interviews, dealing with editorial deadlines and writing their stories are all on the hunt for a genuinely new and relevant story for their readers.

So when they receive a media release that is not applicable to their section, it is quickly moved to the trash and often cursed. On the flip side, when journalists do receive an informative email or phone call targeted to their subject, their readers and their writing style, they will usually welcome the effort.

So let’s consider the need to send that media release. Would hitting the delete button and writing a targeted email instead work better?

An email or phone call is perfect for a story idea. If you have a newspaper, magazine or journalist in mind for your story, you will have far greater chances of publication if you make contact with the journalist to tell them the story or send it in a concise (one paragraph) email. Aside from giving the journalist an exclusive angle on your story, you’ll also be establishing meaningful rapport and building the blocks of a long term, mutually beneficial relationship.

Here are some tips for writing a meaningful story pitch and ditching the media release:

  • Research your journalists and publications. Select those that would respond well to the story you have in mind and email a concise email with a clear angle.
  • Don’t send blatant promotion. It’s not an advertisement. If your email doesn’t present a new story opportunity to the journalist, their publication and their audience it will be binned.
  • Tell it straight. If you’re embellishing or exaggerating facts to make yourself and your product sound better than it is, your announcement isn’t newsworthy and your attempt at building a relationship with a journalist will stop right there.
  • Keep it short and concise. Two paragraphs as a maximum but one paragraph is best. Craft your email explaining what your story is, why you think it’s relevant, how you can add value and when it might work best. Then you’ve genuinely done your job and tried to help the journalist you want to engage with to write your story.
  • Proofread what you have written and send it. Some journalists like a follow-up phone call and some don’t. I suggest letting them know you will be following up in a few days and ask them when might be the best time.

If you’ve you have read this and still want to send the media release, by all means do, just make sure it is sent to the journalists that are right to receive it.

Best of luck having your story published!

 

Top image: athena


Who doesn’t want their name or that of their product or service in the media? While some people shy away from the spotlight most business owners know it is part of the deal when it comes to running a successful business.

However, many business owners tend to have a somewhat skewed view of how the media works. Many have worked with PR companies in the past or even had a go at DIY PR with mixed results or their efforts and investment have delivered next to nil. This is hard to stomach and understandably they feel burnt or disenchanted with the whole process.

So for those business owners who don’t want to give up and are ready to commit the time and effort, here are my nine steps to give yourself the best chance of getting your name in the media spotlight.

1.  Know the news and what makes it

Before you are the news you need to know a bit about what makes news. Journalists are looking for newsworthy content. They want the scoop and they want it yesterday.

They’re pretty tired of wading through volumes of content and often they need a magnifying glass to find the newsworthiness. For this reason most media releases end up in the bin. Your news needs to be new, timely, and local or present a novelty, consequence or conflict. You may have a human-interest story, but this too needs to present interesting content people actually want to read about.

Take a long, hard look at your product, service and the story you want to tell. Does it have any of these characteristics yet?

2.  Read

If you don’t read then it’s time to start. If you have a particular publication in mind for your story make sure you read the publication and the work of the journalist you want to approach.

The more targeted your angle when you present your story, the better your chances of being published. By reading a wide variety of publications you will increase your knowledge and understanding of how stories are written and where you and your product or service might fit.

Reading will give you so many ideas for angles, journalist contacts and stories. So, read, read and read.

Subscribe to blogs; digital media outlets and whatever else you can lay your hands on and set aside designated time to skim through content. Twitter is helpful for busy people because you can simply follow those you and your business are interested in and receive updates allowing you to decide when and what to read.

3.  Have a plan

Rather than plunging head first in to the media newsrooms consider forming a broader PR or Marketing Communications plan if you haven’t already.

Keep all your communications ideas and activities in the one place and make sure they leverage one another.

There’s no point re-inventing the wheel and keeping media relations as a silo. PR is public relations – the way and manner in which you relate to your publics – so this includes public speaking, events, meetings, media, marketing communication, social media – the list is endless.

Fit them all together in a well thought-out plan and I guarantee you will find new ways and ideas for boosting your media exposure.

 4.  Pretend you’re the journalist

Journalists and editors are busy people. If you want an idea of what their day is like, click here to read a day in the life of the Sydney Morning Herald.

I’ve lost count of the number of business people that have said to me “but what we’re announcing has never been done before. It is news. These journalists are lucky to have this – why don’t they care?”

Want the truthful answer? They probably don’t know about your story – even though you just sent it to them.

Editors and journalists receive hundreds of emails and phone calls every day, all from businesses who want their story told. Many have spent time developing an angle and many haven’t. Imagine you’re the journalist and your inbox is flooded with potential stories. You need to look through these while the phone rings hot from PR practitioners and business owners following up their email. Your editor is on your case about your upcoming stories, you have interviews to conduct and stories to write and deadlines to meet.

Pretend you’re the journalist and you will better develop your story angle and probably interact with the journalist better too.

 5.  Avoid media releases

I’m going to say it. I think media releases are daggy.

Of course, there remains a place for the good old media release but I find I achieve better results with a targeted, meaningful “pitch” email.

A media release is great if you have a large media target list and an announcement that applies to a wide variety of media publications. Chances are however, most of the time, you will have a story that is relevant to select journalists and your angle on that story will vary dependent on the publication and journalist you are pitching to.

Also, put your journalist hat on for a moment and consider receiving a media release along with hundreds of others. Journalists want first dibs at the news, so is this really a way to get them onside?

Avoid the media release when you can.

 6.  Develop a story

A story should be rich in content and provide a beginning, middle and an end. A story is never written by any journalist simply stating “X product is really good because…”

A story should entwine your key messages with those your readers want and need to hear. It should if possible be relevant to what’s currently happening in the news.

Rather than simply talking about yourself, your product and what you want, consider framing your story to be about the benefits of your product to the end user and provide interesting facts that may not be directly related to your product or service but that support your argument.

Make sure you do some research and use quotes and opinions by people that can support your position. Have a think outside the square, how can you involve other people in your story?

7.  Write a winning pitch

Ditch the media release and write a pitch directly to an individual journalist. Keep it short and sharp i.e. a paragraph at best, and directly write to the journalist with information they will find useful for their readership, listeners or audience.

8.  Stick to the truth

Don’t ever embellish or make up facts. Journalists are clever and they will see through it.

9.  Follow-up

Remember when I said a lot of content goes straight to the bin? Make sure you follow-up your media release or your pitch email. Call the journalist you sent it to and ask if they received it. Often you’ll need to send it again. Ask them when a good time to call might be and follow-up to discuss it. If you receive a no, ask why. It might be your angle wasn’t quite right and needs tweaking or it might be a similar story was already covered. Take the opportunity to build a relationship and ask them what they would like to receive from you.

All the best with your media efforts; follow these steps and you will be well on your way to building your media profile.


Felicity Grey is founder and Managing Director of The Theory Crew – PR and Marketing Communications helping SMEs unlock ideas, drive results and unleash potential. Theory Crew has DIY PR products to help businesses achieve their PR goals. Visit www.theorycrew.com.au

Featured image: Credits