Writing a press release? Tips on getting it right and how to attract the attention of journalists

Blog, Business Sector

Publicising your company to the media, and dealing with journalists, can be daunting and time-consuming, often with little return. Dorothy Lepkowska, EDUCATE’s Communications Lead, offers some tips on how to write and follow up press releases, to maximise your chances of coverage.

  • Be strategic. Consider why you want to publicise your work and what impact you want any publicity to achieve.
  • Keep it simple. Use easy to understand language when writing your release to explain who you are and what you’re trying to publicise. Use the kind of language you’d use if explaining it to a friend, and avoid slang, jargon and acronyms they might need to look up.
  • Target your press release to the appropriate person and by name, if possible –   depending on whether the theme is around education, technology, business or something else. Find out who the appropriate journalist is and try to email them directly. You should also copy in the news desk in case your targeted reporter is away.
  • Initial contact is best by email – be short and to the point; try to make your subject line as interesting as possible as journalists receive hundreds of emails every day. Sending your release in the main body of the email, rather than as an attachment, will make it more likely to be read. A follow-up email is fine if you don’t get a response. If you do manage to get a journalist on the phone, remember he or she might be busy or on deadline, so be brief and to the point.
  • Don’t expect journalists necessarily to share your agenda. Your news might be important to you, but it doesn’t mean it will be interesting to a journalist. Make sure you explain why what you’re telling them is a big deal.
  • Offer a high-res image or photo to accompany your release. Picture desks on many publications are a thing of the past, and newspapers increasingly rely on contributors to supply images.
  • Try to give journalists some notice if you’re offering them a story – a week is ideal for a daily news outlet; more for features or documentaries. Despite the advanced technology now used in the print production process, deadlines can still be long.
  • When sending a press release, ensure it contains an embargo date and time, and the date and venue, if you’re promoting an event. Include your name and contact details.
  • Remember that journalists won’t guarantee that anything will appear in their publication. As interested they might seem in your story, developments elsewhere can take precedence and it isn’t the reporter who makes these decisions. This is especially true in printed publications, where space is at a premium.
  • Try to develop a relationship with a local journalist covering your field of expertise. An invitation to coffee doesn’t do any harm – the worst that can happen is that they say no. Try to be flexible about times when making arrangements, and fit in around their schedule. If they agree to a meeting it could be the start of a mutually beneficial, professional relationship.

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