press releases

Building a Press List

So, we’ve covered the dos and don’ts of press releases in our two previous posts. Now that you know how to write a press release, you’ve got to know who to send it to. You could scramble for a bunch of local media contacts in the days before your event or product launch. Or you could have all that information stored nice and neat in a spreadsheet and in the contacts on your email client.

Compiling your first list will require an investment of time and patience upfront, but will payoff when you’ve got to send your press release to multiple outlets quickly, and the right contacts are there at the click of a mouse.

Break out Excel; you’ve got a spreadsheet to make.

Who goes on your press list?

If you’re a small business and organization, I recommend you keep several types of lists. They include:

• Media

— Newspapers (local, regional and state)
— Blogs and aggregators
— Broadcast — TV and radio (Learn who your local TV affiliates are — those who carry network programs such as NBC, CBS, ABC, CW and FOX — and find out if they have a local newscast.)

• Trade publications

— Industry-specific regional, national or international trade magazines and newsletters

• Chambers and business organizations

— Local, state and regional chambers of commerce
— Local business development associations
— If applicable, other non-profits and anyone else who distributes community news, such as local access cable stations

What to include:

Your spreadsheet should include names, direct phone numbers and extensions as well as email addresses.

Many news outlets have a general email address for you to submit your news to. Others have an online form. These methods are often convenient for both your organization and the media outlet. But it also makes it easier your information to get lost in the daily deluge of information media outlets deal with.

There’s a workaround, but it’ll take some time and effort on your part: Getting specific.

If you’re a business, know who the business editors are at your local news outlets; if you’re a theater or gallery, know who the A&E editor is.

Also, get a list of reporters and their beats. Let’s say your TV station covers the communities of Bedrock, Springfield and South Park. If your business is based in Springfield, you’ll want to make sure your press release gets to the Springfield reporter directly from you, in addition to being sent to the business editor.

If you’re sending to business development associations or chambers of commerce, make sure you keep up-to-date with whoever is in charge of marketing.

Maintenance

Your contact list should be updated once a year. Call the paper, TV station, chamber, etc. directly and make sure your information is current. Fair warning — this project is often time consuming, but is great if you have an intern.

A couple of things to remember:

• When you write, write to capture as broad an audience as possible.

• Don’t ever assume that local media won’t want to run your press release. If you’re a local business, you’re part of the fabric of the community. Well-written press releases about local businesses are more welcome than not.

In other words: When in doubt, send it out.

Press Release Makeover

I’ve written the following press release about a fake rock band specifically as an example of what not to do. The names and events are fake but the errors in writing are all too common. Read it, if you dare, and then see how easy it is to give it some spit and polish and turn it into something publishable:

PISTOLS N’ PETALS TO REUNITE AFTER 16 YEAR HIATUS BRINGS TOGETHER FANS NEW AND OLD ALIKE AT ONE-OFF CONCERT TO SUPPORT LOCAL ANIMAL SHELTER

LOOKING FOR A GREAT SHOW? WELL THERE’S ONE COMING SOON AND YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHOSE BACK!!!!!

PISTOLS N’ PETALS FIRST TOOK THE WORLD BY STORM IN 1986 WITH THEIR DEBUT ALBUM “CRAVING FOR DEMOLITION.” IT MUST HAVE BEEN FATE WHEN LEAD GUITARIST RONNIE “CUTTER” ROSENTHAL AND DYNAMIC FRONTMAN PAUL “FUELPUMP” PETAL FIRST MET IN LOS ANGELOS! WITH DRUMMER BUCKY “TWIN-SKINS” BOOKER, THE GROUP TOOL LA GLAM METAL TO THE NEXT LEVEL!

THEY TOURED EVERYWHERE. THEY SOLD MILLIONS OF THEIR DEBUT RECORD “CRAVING FOR DEMOLITION”. THEIR FOLLOWUP, QUADROUPLE LP “THE LUNCHBOX HAS LANDED” BROKE THE RECORD FOR MOST WEAKS SPEANT ATOP THE BILLBOARD CHARTS.

EVEN THOUGH THEY’RE AN AMAZING BAND, MEMBERS WANTED TO DO OTHER THINGS AND SO THEY SPLIT UP IN 2000. CUTTER ROCKS OUT ALL THE TIME AS A SOLO ARTIST AND PETAL IS A PROFESSIONAL DIVER FOR SEA CUCUMBERS.

TRADGEDY STRUCK THE P N’ P FAMILY, THOUGH, WHEN BASSIST GIPPY “JACKHAMMER” MACDONALD DIED IN A BIZARRE GARDENING ACCIDENT, SO CUTTER AND FUELPUMP AND TWINSKINS ARE REUNITING FOR A SPECIAL, ONE-TIME ONLY REUNION AT THE 600-SEAT FARGO CIVIC ARENA IN FARGO, NORTH DAKOTA ON SEPTEMBER 1, 2016.

JACKHAMMER LOVED KITTENS. HE’D ALWAYS HAVE A LARGE BOX OF KITTENS ON THE TOUR BUS AND WE’D PLAY WITH THEM AFTER THE SHOW. THE GROUPIES LOVED THE KITTENS TO AND SOMETIMES THEY’D FORGET THAT WE WERE THERE AND JUST PLAY WITH THE KITTENS,” SAYS CUTTER. SO WE’RE GOING TO DONATE ALL THE PROCEEDS TO THIS SHOW TO THE GREATER FARGO HUMANE SOCIETY AND SHELTER. JACKHAMMER WOULD HAVE WANTED IT THAT WAY.

ITS GOING TO BE A FANTASTIC SHOW BUT DON’T WAIT TO GET TICKETS BECAUSE THEY’RE SURE TO SELL OUT QUICKLY! AND FOR A GREAT CAUSE TOO!

Awful. Hard to read. Here’s why:

• Never type in all-caps. It looks like you’re yelling. Plus, some poor schmuck is going to have to retype the whole thing.

• How long is that headline? Way too long.

• Writing style is more akin to an advertisement than a news piece.

• Where’s the lead? Why is the band’s history so prominent? Where’s the actual news? Where’s the dateline?

• Where does Cutter’s quote begin or end? That whole thing is a mess.

• How does one even get tickets for this thing?

• Who can I talk to with questions?

• When can this run? Who do I contact with questions?

OK, so let’s see if we can’t make this baby hum. We’ll shorten the headline, dig up the lead and toss all the extraneous wording and superlatives. Most importantly, we’ll make sure we include some contact and ticket sale information.

EMBARGOED

FOR RELEASE AUG. 18, 2016

Contact Bob Smith, Corporate Communications, Top 5 Record: 555-4444; bobsmith@fakedomainname.com

Pistols ‘N Petals to reunite for a good cause

First reunion in 16 years

FARGO, NORTH DAKOTA — Legendary heavy metal band Pistols N’ Petals are reuniting for the first time in 16 years in Fargo on Sept. 1. It’s all to benefit a great cause in memory of a recently deceased Pistols member.

Pistols N’ Petals took the world by storm in 1986 with their debut album, “Craving for Demolition.” Born out of the L.A. glam scene, Pistols was the brainchild of lead guitarist Ronnie “Cutter” Rosenthal, drummer Bucky “Twin-Skins” Booker and dynamic frontman Paul “Fuelpump” Petal.

The band became a live favorite, performing to millions during a sold-out world tour. P N’ P’s follow-up to “Craving,” 1992’s quadruple LP, “The Lunchbox Has Landed,” spent a record 55 weeks atop the Billboard charts, breaking the record previously set by the soundtrack to “West Side Story.”

The band split up in 2000 over creative differences. Cutter went on to pursue a successful solo career while Petal received his diving certification and now spends his days harvesting sea cucumbers.

The recent death of P N’ P bass player Gippy “Jackhammer” Macdonald in a gardening accident last year prompted the surviving members to reunite for this special, one-time only reunion at the 600-seat Fargo Civic Arena.

Proceeds will go toward the Greater Fargo Humane Society and Shelter.

“Jackhammer loved kittens,” said Cutter. “He’d always have a large box of kittens on the tour bus and we’d play with them after the show. So I can’t think of a better organization to donate our ticket sales to.”

Cutter addded: “Jackhammer would have wanted it that way.”

This is expected to be a sold-out performance and the band recommends getting tickets as soon as possible for this once-in-a-lifetime event.

Tickets will be available Aug. 21 at the Fargo Community Center at 3 Main St. and through Ticketmaster.

Why this version works:

1. It flows. It’s easy to read, uses good grammar and is still compelling without including extraneous details.

2. Right off the bat, the reader has the important information: That the band is back together Sept. 1 for a charity event in Fargo. Ticket information is included.

3. Still contains facts about the band’s history to lure in a new audience and plenty of color. Quotes are tightened and improved.

So Your Press Release Sucks. How to Make it Suck Less:

Worried that you aren’t getting the local media attention your organization deserves? Sending press releases to your local TV, radio station or paper, only to hear the sound of crickets in return? The problem may not be that your announcement isn’t newsworthy. The problem could be the way your approach in alerting local media. Here’s how to tell if your press releases suck, and how to fix them:

1. You don’t understand what a press release is.

Often, small businesses and organizations don’t understand the difference between a press release and a paid advertisement. You may submit a press release thinking that you have to pay for it, and that it will appear exactly as submitted, like an ad. You may also wonder, “how much will this cost me?”

A press release is not an advertisement. An ad is content you pay for, and there are some definite advantages to running an ad in place of or in addition to submitting a press release. As an advertiser, you have a degree of control over when your ad runs, where it runs and how often. You can pick the wording and decide what images will be featured. Not so with a press release, which is considered news content. The disadvantage is that you don’t have much of a say as to when or even if it will run. The uptick is that it’s free and you can pack in a lot of information. Learn more here: http://breakingeveninc.com/press­release­101­so­you­think-you­know­press­releases/

2. It was an afterthought.

If you’re going to put blood, sweat and tears into a project, make sure people know about it. Got a fundraiser coming up? Let the local media know a week or two ahead of time. Avoid procrastination. Don’t wait until the day before or, even worse, the day of your event or product launch to send it. Remember: News outlets prize timeliness.

3. You mailed or FAXed it

Email is so ubiquitous, so easy and so free that there’s no reason not to use it. We’re in a copy and paste age, and few local papers have newsroom staff dedicated to retyping your 800­word press release or scanning it in order to extract the text of your snail­mailed PR. FAXing is even worse, as often the reproduction is splotchy.

editorfrusteratedwithpressrelease

4. You sent it to the wrong news outlet, the wrong person or the wrong department

The Baltimore Sun probably isn’t going to run your press release about your bean supper fundraiser in Waldo County, Maine. Neither will the New York Times, Chicago Tribune or Boston Globe, for that matter. But local and regional news outlets will. Identify the blogs, papers, radio and TV stations and other media outlets whose audience will be interested in what it is that you’re doing. Once you’ve identified the right outlet, make sure it gets to the right department. Your press release should be sent to the newsroom, not to the advertising department or the circulation department. Keep an updated press contact list — we’ll explore more about the in a future blog post.

5. You didn’t include the right contact information

Your press release’s header needs to include the name of a person who to contact, as well as a phone number and email address. Without that, how will the reporter know who to contact so they can cover your amazing event?

6. You padded it

Don’t use a lot of superlatives, don’t try to be cute, don’t use exclamation marks, and remember to cut to the chase in your first paragraph — what we call the lead. Right off the bat, tell them who, what, when where and why your event or launch is important to a news outlet’s readers, viewers or listeners. Keep in mind that a press release should read like news, not like an advertisement. Check spelling and grammar, too.

notsurepr

7. Your photo was too small, out of focus, the wrong size/format

Remember that if you include a photo in your press release — and you probably should — that you don’t need to shoot on the latest Nikon DSLR. But it does need to be in focus. Don’t use any special filters to make it artsy. Don’t send it in black and white or use some monochrome filter. Don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t imbed the photo within a Word document. It’s a pain to extract and the end results are usually less than desirable. One good photo is great. Two is better, but keep it to three, tops. Don’t send little bitty baby thumbnails. Think 300dpi at around 2 MB. Send photos as jpgs, not bitmaps (for goodness sake, it’s 2016 — who uses bitmaps any more?!).

8. You didn’t include any information about the photo

Very important but easily overlooked — captions, also known as cutlines. Include when and where the photo was taken, a brief description of who or what is pictured, and how it relates to your press release. If applicable, include the name of the people in the photo and their titles, and where they are situated within the photograph. In the caption, include the name of the photographer. The photographer is the person who actually took the person; not the person who owns the camera. That is, if George took a picture of Ringo with Paul’s camera, George is the photographer, not Paul.

9. You never followed up.

Take five minutes and call the newsroom to make sure they at least got the press release. A news outlet can’t run what it doesn’t have.

Stay tuned for more posts about Press Releases this month! In case you’ve missed them, be sure to check out our latest posts here:

Remixing Press Releases For Online Marketing

Press Release 101: So You Think You Know Press Releases?

Press Release 101: Writing and Formatting

Press Release 101: Using Imagery

Press Release 101: Releasing it into the Wild

 

Press Release 101: Releasing it into the Wild

At this point, you’ve learned what a press release is, how they are structured, and the best ways to choose a corresponding image. Now, it’s finally ready to submit! Here’s what you need to know:

 

PressRelease_Submission

 

How should I issue a press release to the media?

In addition to posting your press release on your website and social media outlets, you should have a list of contacts in media that accessed by your customer base or service area. That can include, local newspapers, news sites, radio and television, trade publications, and folks on your mailing list.

For newspapers in particular, email long ago outstripped a printed, mailed press release. This is good for you because it saves a ton on postage. It’s also good for the newspaper, who can just copy/paste instead of retyping the entire thing.

What happens after your press release is received?

Sending a press release doesn’t guarantee that it’ll get picked up. But a timely press release with interesting content has a good chance of grabbing the attention of your media contacts.

After your release is sent, one of the following may occur depending on a number of factors:

  • The release may go ignored. Just because you think an announcement is newsworthy doesn’t necessarily mean that opinion is shared by an editor. Or maybe there isn’t space in the paper for your release this week. That shouldn’t dissuade you from sending press releases in the future. Like the Great One said, “you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”
  • The release may be printed verbatim. This happens more frequently in community shoppers, circulars, and other small publications and community newsletters.
  • The release may be published with edits. Weekly, local, and regional papers will often reprint a release with edits that helps the release conform to the paper’s style. The newspaper may contact you for clarification or for additional information. The release may often be shortened with extraneous information eliminated. Don’t take it personally. Remember, the end result of all of this is to get your product or service noted. Getting your release published — even shortened and edited — means you’ve accomplished that.
  • The release becomes part of a bigger, bylined story. The good news is your announcement may have just become front-page news. A reporter may be sent to your organization to do a sit-down interview, take photos, etc. If your content from your press release — especially a quote — is used in the resultant story, it ought to be denoted. Be aware that the paper may also look to include other sources from outside your organization. For example, if a local land trust issues a press release announcing intentions to acquire a parcel for preservation, the paper will likely go ahead and interview the folks who may be selling the property, or abutters leery of the deal. If an advocacy group campaigning against fossil fuels issues a news release about the damaging effects of carbon emissions, the paper may also balance out their story with quotes from an oil company.

Press Release 101: Using Imagery

So, we’ve gone over the nature of a press release and how to write one. Press Release Part 3 discusses how to add images that tie your words together.

PressRelease_Images

Every picture tells a story.

Include an eye-catching photo that will draw attention to your press release when it’s published.  Make sure you:

  • Send it as a separate attachment
  • Do not embed it in a Word Document. These are a pain to extract, and the quality is often poor and unusable.The best photos will be taken digitally. Some folks will scan a print and send that as an email, but the end result will be a copy of a copy, leading to poor reproduction.Make sure it’s sized correctly. A digital image that’s between 12-24” at its maximum length or height at a resolution of 72 dpi (dots per inch) is more than sufficient. Often news outlets get photos that are merely thumbnails (1”-2” at maximum) that can’t be enlarged without becoming distorted and unusable
  • Make sure it’s in-focus and well-lit.
  • Include the name of the person, or persons, seen in the photo.
  • Provide the name of the person or organization in the photo credit
  • Do not use any special filters or borders such as those seen often on Instagram.

Once you’ve pinpointed the perfect image to go along with your release, it’s ready to be sent off into the wild. What can you expect after hitting “Send”? Stay tuned for Part 4!

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