A press release is a great, and free, way to promote your business, garner publicity and, in the long term, increase sales. Little wonder most businesses send out blizzards of the things.
Great news for the copywriters who create them but a constant refrain I hear from business owners or marketing executives is, “Our press releases never get published yet our competitors always do even though we are bigger / better / cheaper.”
There are many reasons why press releases don’t get picked up but, unfortunately, the majority of those sent out, which don’t get used, suffer from the same faults and are thrown straight into the bin. Or rather instantly deleted. Which is a missed opportunity not to mention a waste of time, money, and effort.
But, with so many news sites, blogs, and other online outlets desperate for content your media release should be hitting the target every time.
So why do so many press releases not make it into print or onto the web? Here are seven main reasons:
1) Not targeted
Don’t just throw mud at the wall and hope some of it sticks. Your PR should be targeted to those journalists or editors who will be genuinely interested in your news. If you are launching a new bus route it’s unlikely Trainspotters Digest will want to publish it.
It’s an extreme example but annoying journalists with irrelevant missives will probably lead to your address being blocked or future emails being instantly deleted even when you have something relevant to say.
2) Badly written subject lines
You need to stand out. Journalists at high-profile media outlets get inundated every day with press releases. Their inboxes are literally stuffed full of them.
You have only seconds to make an impression and, unless you have the gravitas of BMW or Virgin, many journos will only look at your subject line before deciding whether to open or delete your email. Make sure your subject line will grab their attention but not by using dubious humour, puns, or any other type of dodgy click bait.
Don’t put ‘press release’ at the beginning of the subject line. The journalist knows what it is and you are just wasting valuable characters with which to grab attention. You can always put press release at the end of the subject line if you want to be sure of avoiding confusion.
3) Not personalised
You need to personalise your email when possible. Address the journalist by name and include a brief line or two about why you think his/her readers will be interested in, or benefit from, your news. It doesn’t take much effort to do this and by individualising your email there is a much higher chance of your press release being used.
4) No cover letter
I admit opinion is divided on this. Some marketing agencies and copywriters insist no cover letter, or body copy in the email, is necessary. I disagree. A couple of brief paragraphs with a synopsis of the press release serves as both a taster and a teaser effectively giving you twice the chance of persuading the journalist to read and then act on your news.
A good tip here is to also include the text of the press release in the body of the email. The journalist will not only see the synopsis but also the press release itself when the email is opened. The journo can then read it without having to open the attachment until he/she needs to.
5) It’s so dull
Your news is news isn’t it? By news I mean something which is relevant and interesting to the readers of the publication, newspaper, or website you are targeting. Not sure what is newsworthy or not? Here’s a tip.
Debbie in accounts having a baby or you hiring a new machinist in the workshop isn’t news. At least not news that anyone outside your business will care about.
Don’t assume just because a journalist has space to fill and deadlines to meet they will publish anything. They have no shortage of material and can pick and chose what they use.
If your news is relevant, has an angle and, most importantly, is something journalists and their readers will find interesting, it is highly likely to be picked up.
6) It’s not correctly formatted
There are no excuses for getting this wrong. All press releases follow the same format and deviating from it will more likely get your news canned rather than noticed.
Your document should be headed by ‘Press Release’ in bold and in the centre of the page. Underneath this should be the date and either ‘for immediate release’ or ’embargoed until …..’
The story should ideally fit on one page , be four or five paragraphs long and contain quotes along with any stats, facts, and evidence to support your news. It should include everything the journalist needs to write the story. At the bottom of the copy type ‘Ends’ in bold and in the centre of the page.
The point of contact’s details then follows with a mobile, direct landline, and email address should the journalist need further information or quotes. Include your business address, phone number, and website URL. Also include one or two lines about the business and what it does. Don’t go overboard here. A very brief overview is all that is required.
7) It’s a sales pitch
Don’t think you can dress up a sales letter as a press release and get it published. It won’t happen. A press release isn’t an advertorial although its purpose is, of course, to promote your brand and sell more products or services. But you can’t be that direct. Your news must provide value both to the journalist and the eventual reader.
By peaking their interest the hope is the readers will visit your website or pick up the phone. There are also indirect benefits such as links back to your website which will help your SEO and attract more organic and referred traffic.
An interesting side effect in getting your name out there through sending out high-quality and valuable press releases is that you, in time, may become established as an industry expert and the journalists ‘go to source’ for comments on other stories. This will generate publicity for you and your business on an ongoing basis.
Don’t forget your blog
When compiling your press release it is always a good idea to add a similar post to your blog. Don’t simply reproduce the press release but have your copywriter repurpose the content into a longer blog post. This gives you more content and of course your blog article can, and should, be much more sales orientated than the original press release.
If you need a press release writing call me on 07722 431483. I will write the news journalists are waiting to hear.
If you’re not ready to hire me yet or are looking for advice on copy and online marketing subscribe to my newsletter. I’ll send you a my eBook ‘How to Write an Awesome Blog Post’ just for signing up.