5 Tips for Effective Press Releases

Originally published
Originally published: 4/1/2013

Get to know the editors, coverage style of targeted print publications.

Entrepreneurs and businesses all have a message they want the press to help share. They may be interested in contributing an article or column. They may have a great story they’d like a reporter to tell. Or, they have a product or service that can help readers solve their problems.

As media outlets devoted to providing news and information to their readers, the press — newspapers, magazines, and their online counterparts — want to help! But, too often, the people interested in getting print coverage thwart their own efforts by making simple mistakes.

Here are some things to consider before sending that email:

1. Pay attention to deadlines:

Newspapers generally are daily or weekly; magazines might publish weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annually. Both plan their feature content ahead of time. Newspapers might plan from a few days to two or three weeks ahead of publication. Magazines may be working on their May issue in February. 

Either way, working in advance is vital. If you’re hoping to time your story idea or article to coincide with a season or special event, consider when you’d like to see it published and work backward from that date. It also helps to comb the publication’s website for information on deadlines and policies regarding unsolicited material.

2. Read the publication: 

Once you understand what sort of content the publication uses, in what format and in which sections, you can tailor and target your pitch. Say you want to provide energy-saving tips to prepare for winter. You can A) Send an article full of tips to the main editor listed on the website, or B) Read a few issues of the newspaper or magazine and find out if and when it publishes a fall- or winter-prep section and who the editor is. (You can also see if it uses a question-and-answer format, bulleted tips, or longer articles.)

3. Pay attention to the news: 

Knowing today’s issues, trends, and breaking news can help you make your pitch timely and current. Most publications look for a “news hook” — a way to give a piece context because it relates to something happening now. 

There were lots of news features on the Mormon religion, for instance, when Mitt Romney began campaigning for the GOP presidential nomination. Romney being Mormon gives publications a reason to write about that religion. He’s a great news hook. Does your business offer solutions for people to help beat the recession? If it’s in the news and you can speak to it, don’t hesitate to get your pitch together and send it off today.

4. Be concise: 

Often, a few sentences describing your story angle and how it relates to a timely topic is enough. Avoid burying the important information in a long narrative or in glowing paragraphs about how wonderful your idea, product, service, or company is. Instead, present the information in a way that respects your contact’s time. Brief is best.

5. Make the important information easy to find: 

If editors have to search for dates, your contact information, or local relevance, they may give up — even if they’re initially interested in your pitch. Think of the information you would need if you were considering writing a story or publishing what has been provided. The vital information should be present and clearly visible.

Even if you don’t make these common mistakes, catching the interest of an editor can be difficult. Remember to paste your pitch into the body of your email — don’t send it as an attachment, which may get it flagged as junk mail. Follow up with a polite phone call (“Just wanted to make sure you received my email regarding an article I can write for you”). 

Getting print coverage is possible, so don’t give up! 

Marsha Friedman is a 22-year veteran of the public relations industry. She is the CEO of EMSI Public Relations, a national firm that provides PR strategy and publicity services to corporations, entertainers, authors and professional firms.  

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