Press releases are often touted as being one of the best ways to get media coverage for your business. However, with many journalists receiving over 50 pitches and press releases each day, it’s getting harder to get journalists’ attention.
If you Google “press release templates” you will be inundated with page after page of similar-looking templates that supposedly “grab journalists’ attention”.
The problem here is that businesses and PR agencies alike have been using these same templates for the best part of a decade. Journalists have grown weary of seeing these, as confirmed by the fact that 52% of journalists outright ignore press releases.
The press release is not dead however — rather press releases need to be crafted with journalist’s needs in mind.
Here we will run through exactly what journalists want in a press release and therefore how to write a press release that really does get their attention.
The working life of a journalist
The rise of digital has made it very difficult for media outlets to stay profitable. Revenue is generated by advertising which is calculated primarily on a cost-per-impression basis. Quite simply, the more clicks that an outlet gets, the more money they make.
This has put a huge amount of pressure on journalists to churn out articles. It is not uncommon for a journalist to be expected to write 6-8 articles a day.
As well as having to write a huge amount of articles each day, journalists’ KPIs are generally based around the traffic driven to each of their articles, and the amount their articles are shared on various social platforms.
The upshot of this for someone looking to get coverage for their business is twofold:
- A press release needs to be written in a way that journalists can quickly turn a press release into a final article.
- A press release should tie into a wider topic that is trending at the moment so to attract clicks and shares.
Here is how to cover each of these things in your press release.
Tying your press release into a trending topic
The first mistake many make when creating a press release is viewing it as a way of getting free advertising for their business.
In 99% of cases, a press release that is centred around your business, or the product or services that you provide will not be picked up by any journalists. Remember, journalists are judged by clicks and social shares. When was the last time a story about a new product service or business even went viral?
It simply does not happen.
However, with a bit of creative thinking, it is possible to tie your business into a current event and get into the press that way. Here are a few ways to think about this:
- Does your industry expertise mean that you can provide some new valuable commentary on a current event?
- Do you have any customer data that can be used to support or contradict an argument that is being had online?
- If you offer a service or product that is of particular value to people due to a recent event that has happened, can you give it away for free or at a discounted price.
These are all ways to make your business relevant to trending topics, and therefore of interest to a journalist who needs an idea for a story that will attract clicks and shares.
Bonus tip: If you have access to a social listening or counting tool like BuzzSumo or Ahrefs Content Explorer, then you can see what are the most shared articles from a particular media outlet in the last few weeks. This can help you decide what trend to target with your press release angle.
Making it easy to turn your press release into an article
A journalist tasked with writing 8 articles a day will have around one hour to write each article. Therefore, for a press release to be considered it needs to have all the information needed to create an article.
A large part of making the writing process as easy as possible for journalists is in the way you format your press release.
Many press release templates advocate sending a page long document, attached to an email. This can take a lot of time for journalists to digest, as they first have to open the document, filter out the useful information, and then refer back to it when writing their article.
This simply is not convenient for a time-pressed journalist.
A far better way of structuring your press release is a short email giving a potential headline that could be used for your press release (ideally you want to cater this to the publication you are pitching - make sure your headline matches the general type of headline that they use), along with a sentence or two describing the contents of your press release and how it contributes to a particular trending topic.
Ideally, this trending topic will be one that your contacted journalist has already written about, and you can reference this in your email. This will demonstrate that you have taken time to select specific journalists rather than just bulk sent your press release.
The actual “meat” of your press release should be on a landing page on your website which is linked to in the email. This allows a journalist to keep the press release tabbed open while they write their article.
The press release itself should be written in a way that makes it easily scannable, and with the key elements being easily copied and pasted into an article. Ways to do this include:
- Having your most important information at the top of the page.
- Having specific quotes given their own paragraph so they can be pasted into an article
- Having any statistics that might be of note put in bold so they can be easily scanned.
- Present data in graphs and charts with embed codes so they can be pasted into the HTML code by the journalist.
- Some outlets require a video as part of their article, so it might be worth including a relevant video on your landing page. This does not have to be your own video.
Always think - how can I make a journalist’s life easier? So long as this thought is at the top of your mind you cannot go far wrong with your press release.
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