Before the days of social media, news outlets were where savvy marketers and communications teams went to gain free notoriety and free publicity. Whether it be via television, radio, industry journal, magazine, or newspaper, they wanted their story to be out there. However, it wasn’t enough to go to a news outlet and say “we have a new product” or “we have an exciting event.” Instead, the story has to be what the industry calls “newsworthy. It has to be something that the industry deems credible and worth their time. One of the primary ways to gain their attention is through a press release.
Over the course of my career, I’ve learned some tricks of the trade. Today, I’m here to drop knowledge on how to attract newsmakers.
1. Identify where you want your story to be told.
There are several types of news outlets conveying a multitude of messages. This includes top fashion and beauty magazines, publications about how people think and work, and sources directly related to niche categories such as technology, design, and even crafting. There’s likely a publication directly related to the area in which you’re looking to gain exposure. And don’t forget local and regional news are always looking for stories. It’s imperative to know where you want to gain exposure as it will provide insight on the type of press release you’ll need to write.
2. Do your research.
Once you know where you want to gain exposure, it’s important that you do your research. As you’re doing your research, things to pay attention to are types of stories aired or published, the language used, trends, and story titles. You can even pay attention to the categories and subcategories on websites to determine the topics in which they’re interested. For example, Wired focuses on technology related to business, culture, gear, ideas, science, security, and transportation, while Essence [Magazine] focuses on celebrity, fashion, beauty, hair, love, love, lifestyle, news and more.
3. Develop a newsworthy angle.
Combining your story with the observations you made during the research phase should help you develop a newsworthy angle. For example, I recently wrote a press release for a local event. The goal was to have this event published through local news outlets. The event happened to be happening right after the primary elections. Instead of focusing on the event, I focused the event driving community right on the other side of election day. I took something that was hot and let it work for me.
3. Write your press release.
Not only should your angle be influenced by your research, your entire press release should be influenced by it. Allow the titles you observed give direction to the title of your press release. In this case, the title is akin to the title of a good book. If it’s not catchy enough, they may not read any further.
Secondly, go back to the language used. Take a tone similar to that of the news outlet.
Third, don’t be afraid to discuss controversy or problems. This is an angle I take often.
Finally, be sure to include the details that turn the story into free advertising. This part is tricky, but this can be done by weaving the details in the press release or by waiting until the end of the press release to add the details. For events, these details would include host, activities, guests, who’s invited, price, place, time. For products, this would include features, benefits and where you can purchase.
4. Format the press release.
Yes, there’s a specific format to the press release. In addition to the main content, you want to include the date to release the story, the date that the press release was written, city and state, and contact information. Here’s an example of a press release’s format.
5. Distribute the press release.
Large organizations generally distribute press releases through a wire service. With a cost of $199 per month, this can be quite expensive for a small business. However, you don’t have to go through a wire service as several outlets provide a way for you to directly submit the press release. Either google the outlet along with the phrase “press release” or go to the outlet’s website and search for a way to submit a story. This is a little more manual than going via a wire service, but I’ve had success. (Also, if you know someone who works for the organization and has access to production, leverage your relationship for your way in.)
6. Be prepared for follow up conversations.
If your story garners interest, there’s a chance that there will be follow up conversations. In my experience, this has included interviews. Therefore, it is important that you have a firm understanding of what you wrote and why you wrote it. You must be able to stand on your story, so be honest in your release and don’t include anything you don’t want to be associated with your or you don’t want to defend if such a time comes.