Keep Your Press Releases OUT of Editors' Recycle Bins...And IN the Newspapers' Pages

A Tutorial By Shel Horowitz from FrugalFun

While making follow-up calls after sending out a press release, I was talking to one of the business editors at the Boston Globe. She said that she got 350 faxed press releases every day.

That's one editor at one department at one newspaper--and that doesn't count the ones that come in by postal mail or e-mail. Needless to say, most of the releases she gets--and most of the releases that get sent to major newspapers around the world--never get more than a glance.

How can you increase the chances that your release will be read--and used? The "secrets" are pretty simple:

1) Provide all the necessary information.
Contact name(s) and phone numbers are absolutely essential; additional contact methods, such as fax and e-mail, are a good idea. If your release promotes an author appearance or other event, include the date, time, place, admission charge, and other relevant details. If you're announcing a new book, include author(s)--and for an anthology or if they're well-known, editor(s)--title and subtitle, ISBN, price, and for new publications, the release date. Include the website URL for in-depth follow-up.

2) Write knock-your-socks-off copy.
News releases are a challenge: they've got to be perky, assertive, but focused as NEWS. Anything that sounds like sales copy, and your release is headed for the Great Paper Mill in the Sky. You've got to find and promote your angle without making it sound like an ad.

Look for the strongest possible news angle. A few examples: historical or current events, anything that benefits charity in any way, "firsts" of any kind, and of course, an actual news event such as a press conference (or even a personal appearance).

3) Send it to the right publications and departments.
If you're promoting a home tofu making kit, don't send it to the fish and game editor. But food/living and health/nutrition would be good bets, as would the book review editor. Similarly, if you're promoting a lecture two weeks away, don't bother with the monthly magazines that have already gone to press. (Paul Krupin's Imediafax website can help you target the right publications.)

4) Address it to the specific editor or reporter, by name.
Before you send a release, go through your media list, call each one, and verify the name of the appropriate editors and writers. If you're faxing, ask for that person's own fax number. Send each one individually, with your contact's name on the envelope or fax cover sheet. It's okay to send the same release to more than one contact, by the way.

5) Follow-up Press Releases
When mailing, faxing, or hand-delivering a press release, follow up by phone a few days later (time-permitting)--and well ahead of the newspaper's deadline for running your information in time to promote your event. Say that you're calling to answer any questions they may have about the release. Stay helpful and polite at all times, even if the journalist is rude--and NEVER call at deadline time!

In my experience, this often significantly boosts the chances of coverage. First, you draw the reporter's attention to your release out of a stack of hundreds. Second, you have the opportunity to clear up any confusion, generate interest through your own enthusiasm (but not hype!), impart new information not covered in the initial release, etc. And third, you're on your way to building a long-term relationship as a helpful source--and they may call you sometimes, when they need information in your field.

At the very least, do this for large daily newspapers, radio TV stations. Time permitting, call everyone you've sent to.

6) Give thanks.
Send a personal thank you to any reporter or editor who covers your story--even if you didn't like the coverage. If there are errors in the story, point them out in a polite and appreciative letter to the editor; if that gets published, you reinforce your initial exposure in that media market.