Press releases are a presentation of facts that are sent to journalists in the hope that they'll get published and turned into stories. That's whether you're approaching magazines, newspapers, radio/TV stations or e-zines, a press release aims to shout about something to do with you and your business, helping to raise your profile and consequently increase sales enquiries.
How you write a press release is determined by the 'who, what, when, where, why and how?', i.e. What's the story about? When's it happening? Who's involved? Where's it taking place? How is it happening? Why is it happening? You get the idea. So when you painstakingly put together your own press releases only to find that nothing ever gets published, how do you find out where you're going wrong?
As someone who's worked in both PR and journalism, and now runs her own PR agency in Manchester, I've put together these top reasons why your press release isn't getting published and how you can avoid them...
Your subject line looks like spam
When emailing your press releases to journalists, make sure you copy and paste the headline into the subject line. Ensure the headline is punchy, interesting and eye-catching. Don't put things like 'Read this!!!' or 'LATEST NEWS FROM US' into the subject line - it will just look like spam and is likely to get deleted before the journalist even opens it.
You included the press release as an attachment
Journalists don't have time to open documents, that's whether they're PDFs or Word Docs. Simply copy and paste the headline of your press release into the subject line and then paste the rest of the press release into the body of your email. Make it as easy as possible for the journalist to extract the information and they're more likely to use your story.
You used a PDF
PDFs are an absolute pain for any journalist. They're difficult to extract information from and are so annoying that I simply delete any press releases I receive in this format. Seems harsh but they take up so much of my time that I've grown to despise them. I can not emphasise this enough - do not use PDFs. Copy and paste your press release into the body of the email and make it really easy for the journalist to use your story.
You haven't sent everything they need
Journalists don't have time to chase after you, so make sure you send everything they need first time. That includes the press release and any accompanying images. Don't assume they'll contact you for additional things they might need - just send everything they do need first time. Don't make them chase!
You sent the wrong type of image
Journalists spend most of their time replying to emails requesting an image. It then takes several days for any image to appear and by that time, the journalist might have lost interest in your story. Send the right image along with the press release and you'll have a much better chance of seeing your story published. But make sure you send the right image, which means Jpegs with at least 300dpi and a minimum of 500KB for print and 'web-ready' images for online publications. Journalists won't have time to open up Photoshop and edit images themselves, so make sure they're right. Finally, always send Jpegs as attachments to emails.
Your press release requires an entire re-write
Some press releases are so poorly written that it's difficult to understand what they're actually about. Nine times out of 10, a journalist won't have time to re-write the story. Make sure your press release is well-written, concise and factual. If you need tips on how to write a press release, read this article.
Your press release isn't newsworthy
It's an obvious reason but journalists will only be interested in press releases that carry a genuine story. So make sure your press release has a strong news angle and isn't just something that's trying to sell your products or services. Journalists will only ditch press releases containing lots of sales messages, so keep it factual and newsworthy. What makes something newsworthy? Well, have you just launched a new product that's different from anything else? Or won a client an unusual way? Put a 'journalist hat' on and consider the sorts of stories that are more likely to get published.
You clearly don't know the media
Before you issue any press release, investigate the media you're targeting. Do they have any specific sections where your story would fit in? Do they have a certain style of writing? Do they prefer to have a chat over the phone or do they like to be emailed instead? Get to know the media you're targeting and you'll stand a much better chance of achieving some media coverage.
You're not personal enough
Journalists aren't stupid. They know if you're sending out mass emails to hundreds of different journalists all at the same time. This just looks impersonal and unfriendly. Make your emails personal and try to develop a relationship with each journalist. Create a 'media list' and write useful notes against each contact name so you know how to better deal with them in future. Develop a database of contacts and know how each person likes to be approached.
You're becoming a pain
If someone is constantly bugging a journalist with questions like 'when is my story going to get published?', then they'll be more inclined to move your press release straight to the trash can. Let's face it! None of us like to be hassled. It only leaves a bad taste in our mouths. To keep the journalist sweet, don't chase too much and don't become a pain. Respect the journalist and understand that you can't secure media coverage for everything as it's really up to them.