In this press release guide, we give away a lot of our public relations secrets, but also show how much work a PR Campaign is. A successful PR Campaign starts with a press release and ends with great coverage. Here at JSM we have a proven, refined process of planning and executing PR Campaigns, and we want to share some tips with you. Do you have news to share or want to get noticed by the press? Read on.
1) Decide if your news is worthy of a press release
Carefully choose what to publicize through a press release. Media will ignore your releases if they are not substantial, and may be less likely to read your emails in the future if you spam them with a weak release. This will hurt your company when you have real news to share. Press releases are not for sales pitches and ads.
The following list includes instances when a press release may be appropriate:
- Announcing a milestone, major relationship, or anniversary
- Announcing the launch of a new product or service
- Recalling a product or ceasing an existing service
- Announcing an upcoming event
- Highlighting awards received
- Containing bad press
Does your news fit with any of the above topics? Great! Now it is time to write the press release. If you’re still not sure, go to this page to request our DIY PR eBook, which we created to help you find the amazing, newsworthy stories lying right under your nose.
2) Write a press release
When writing a press release, keep it short and concise. Avoid expressing strong emotions and using personal pronouns. Answer the who, what, where, when, and why of your news in two pages or less. Base all your writing on facts and again, NO SALES PITCHES.
Here are a few basic templates for press releases to get you started.
A) Begin with the company’s logo in the top left corner. In the top right corner or slightly below the logo, write MEDIA CONTACT, then on the next few lines list your contact info, including your full name, direct line and/or cell phone number, and your email. Double check for errors.
B) Below the logo and contact info, write in caps FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE. Note: If the information is not to be released immediately, write in caps EMBARGOED UNTIL DECEMBER 31, 2017 (or whatever date the info may be published). The embargo date tells the media when they can publish the information contained in the release.
C) Write a headline no more than 10 words in CAPS. We usually bold our headlines as well, as they should summarize the most important and newsworthy aspects of a release. If nothing else, we want reporters and editors to absorb the headline.
D) The body should be structured with the most important information at the beginning and the least important at the bottom. The lead paragraph should be 25 words or less and should captivate your reader. Arrange this information with the supporting information first then background information to keep the “most-to-least important” information structure.
E) Personalize your press release to the type of outlet you are sending to. Mass publications require a different style and tone than trade publications.
F) End your press release with three centered hashtags: ###. In the PR world, this confirms to the reader that they have the full document.
3) Edit, then edit again
Have a copywriter edit the release to remove all typos, awkward phrases, sentences that are too long and other grammatical issues. A copy editor can do wonders and are not optional if you want to be taken seriously. Our in-house grammar grouch would be very cranky if we let this slide from our press release guide!
4) Build your media contact list
Writing your press release is just the first step. Making sure your release reaches the appropriate editors and reports is the next step. Decide on which media outlets to target and research the appropriate contacts. This may include:
- Local, regional, or national press (daily, weekly, and monthly publications)
- Alternative publications (Natural Awakenings, The Pride LA, Village Voice)
- Mass media (USA Today, Providence Journal, Yankee Magazine)
- Trade publications (Supermarket News, Manufacturing Today, Hotels News Now)
- Online media (online news sites, blogs, social influencers)
Research all types of media and determine which publications may truly be interested in your news. This list is probably shorter than you think. The best way to do this is to read three recent past issues of the publication. Where would your news story run? Is it similar to the types of stories and issues the publication covers? The better idea you have of how your news fits into the publication, the better your chances are for coverage. Be brutally honest with yourself, and don’t spam reporters and editors with a release that lacks relevancy.
5) Craft an irresistible email subject line
If I could stress one element of our press release guide, this would be it. Your email subject is more important than you think. No matter how awesome your release is, if the subject line is bland, it may never get opened. Make the email subject a bit edgy, juicy — ask yourself if you would open an email with this subject line, and if the answer is no, start over.
6) Compose a conversational, compelling email
Write a very short email that highlights one or two of the most interesting tidbits from your release. Keep the entire email to two or three short paragraphs. We recommend closing with, “Thank you for your consideration.” Below your sign off, paste the entire release. This way, if folks don’t want to open an attachment, they still have a chance to read the release.
7) Include one to three amazing photos to run with your story
This does not include logos, promotional shots, low resolution or blurry images. This does include high quality professional or semi-professional images that have a photojournalism quality. Include the name of the photographer, and of course, make sure you have permission to use the images. Images may greatly increase your chances of getting covered. And if an outlet runs your story with one of your images, your news will “play” big on the page.
Studies show that when people scan a newspaper, they first read the headlines, then they look at the images, then they read the image captions, THEN they start to read the stories. So a published image may, in some instances, be as powerful or more powerful than a published story. When I share this fact with clients, it shocks them. If you pass on this tip, you can say you learned it in the the JSM press release guide.
8) Hit send (again and again)
Send each contact on your media list an individual email. Even if that means hundreds of emails. This is not a joke. PR is a lot of work! But the personal relationships you build are golden.
9) Follow up
Your T’s have been crossed and your I’s dotted, emails have been sent, your PR campaign is done… or so you thought. Now comes the tough task of following up with every single reporter and editor who you emailed the release to. We recommend calling each contact about two days after sending the release. (If your news is timely, call sooner.) Be prepared for a one-sentence pitch of your story if you should be so lucky as to reach the person. Or, leave a snazzy voicemail with your name and phone number. After leaving the message, email the whole pitch and press release again. The follow up call is essential to gaining coverage so don’t skip this uber important step of our press release guide.
10) Track down published news
Creating a detailed list of every outlet that published your news is part of your PR Campaign, and especially valuable to share with clients or higher ups who want to see what coverage came out of their investment. Create a Google Alert to capture online news, and carefully search the print and online editions of outlets that expressed interest in your story. Sometimes a contact will not indicate interest and publish something anyway. Check carefully. Save the link or clipping and track down the exposure stats for each clip. BurrellesLuce is one trusted source for monitoring coverage.
11) Research reactions
This may not be necessary for most releases, but if you are containing bad press, take time to see how people are reacting to the news. Compile a folder of reactions with screenshots so you have all the data available, should you need to present it to your client or higher-ups.