Successful press release

TOP TIPS: Why the journalist deleted your press release …

Every day at Featureworld I receive around a dozen or so press releases – and on a busy day many more. So why as a journalist do I end up deleting so many especially when someone will have taken the time and trouble to write it? Here I look at the reasons why and what makes some press releases so special that they stand out shining from the rest… Successful press release

* The press release wasn’t relevant to the journalist’s specialism

As a journalist specialising real life stories, the press release about cars for example might not be relevant for the papers and magazines I write for. But in fact so many press releases could be made a lot more relevant for many more journalists with a little tweaking. So a press release talking about a new type of car on the market could be made much more newsworthy by talking about the type of customer it appeals to – or stating it will also be available in bright pink or is the first vehicle to feature a kettle – something that makes it unique and interesting to a wider market than just the motor trade.

*The press release is too long and rambling

Journalists are busy people and rightly or wrongly, might not have time to read past the first paragraph. So many press releases try to put too many company details in the first paragraph that immediately a journalist is put off reading any further. Avoid this by always including a snappy headline and sticking to a simple newsy first paragraph. Then, avoid an essay of a press release. If for example your press release is about how you’ve carried out a survey, put in the main findings with a link to the full results for anyone who wants further details.

*The press release just isn’t a story

Many people will advise organisations do not send out press releases unless they have some proper news to tell, which I believe is good advice. But for many companies, press releases are an integral part of their search engine optimisation marketing (SEO) – and they rely on sending regular releases to help with this. In this case – when you are sending out releases regularly – accept not every one will make a great show. However, increase your chances of success every time by getting creative when writing them. Saying someone in your company has been promoted is dull – but saying what that person intends to change about the company and including a photo of them makes it much more interesting and the story might make more than just a listing.

* The press release is poorly written

If a press release is written well, a journalist should be able to literally copy and paste it onto a page. Examine newspaper reports in national newspapers to see how a press release should always be written. The main story should be in the first paragraph – ideally a paper could only print the first two paragraphs and everyone would know what the story is about. Excellent grammar and spelling, along with your logo and contact details, will help it look professional.

* The press release lacks a human touch

To get a great show, many newspapers require a ‘case study box’ with the copy. As you probably know, a case study is a person who recounts their real life experience. So if you are saying your study sponsored by your brand, shows more dogs are getting arthritis, include a real life story of someone with a pet that has this. Add some quotes from them and if possible include a photo of them with their dog as well. If you don’t want to put a case study out on ‘general release’ and want to check first which publications a case study might appear in say you have case studies (with photos or who will agree to be photographed) available on request.

* The press release needs too much work to make it work

Sometimes a press release contains a potential story but needs too much work to get it into the paper or if it does make, to give it a good show. Perhaps the company that sent it expects the paper will ‘knock it into shape’ for them. So the press release might be given to a reporter to make further investigations but it risks being overtaken by other stories – or falling by the wayside. Problems include not including a case study, no photo or any expert quotes and failing to back up facts. Unfortunately I have also rung PR individuals to find out more details only to be told they just sent out the release and don’t have any or just give you the number for the company director (who thought he was paying a PR firm to do this…) So when you send a press release out be ready with extra info straightaway.

* You sent your press release out at the wrong time

You can be very unlucky – you send out a press release and a big story breaks at the same time. But in general week days are obviously best and during usual working hours. Mornings are best as well and it’s probably advisable to avoid Mondays (when the week starts up and can be busy news wise) and Fridays. If you are sending your press release out to magazines or local papers, do check when their deadlines are – they are often much earlier than you might think. And if it is a seasonal press release it’s even more imperative you check when the optimum time is – for example, monthly magazines often work months in advance (hence press releases for Christmas in August aren’t so mad after all…)

And finally – you have sent your press release out to everyone.

Sometimes a great story with a press release comes into me but I don’t follow it up because it’s obvious it’s been sent to lots of people. Or I have emailed back to find out that disappointingly a PR has sent it everywhere. There is no point in me offering a story to a paper who is already being sent it…! A tip – try just one well connected journalist first and offer it exclusively to them. Tell them you are offering it exclusively. If they and a couple of others are unable to place the story, then send it out on general release.

Written by Alison Smith-Squire, a journalist and media agent who regularly writes for all the national newspapers, women’s magazines and TV.


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Alison Smith-Squire

Alison Smith-Squire is a writer, journalist and media agent selling exclusive real life stories to newspapers, magazines and TV. She owns the sell my story website Featureworld.co.uk, which was set up to help ordinary people sell their stories to the press.

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