I have read thousands — probably TENS of thousands — of press releases during my five-plus years as a newspaper editor. I’ve also written and edited press releases, pro bono, for friends and nonprofits. So that should qualify me to dispense this unsolicited advice.
One thing journalists want to know is WHY? I’ll start by telling you WHY you should send out press releases when you are doing something, well, newsworthy, because I’ve noticed a number of organizations ignore traditional news outlets in favor of social media.
Social media is great. I love the internets! I’m on them RIGHT NOW. But the reach of your own personal social media networks is limited. And we know this. It’s why the number-one tip for new bloggers is “Do guest posts! Comment on other blogs!” Other channels reach audiences that yours doesn’t. And so do newspapers and television stations. They are huge, high-traffic outlets just waiting to connect you with new readers, fans, customers, groupies….
So do you HAVE to write a press release targeting newspapers and magazines? No. But why wouldn’t you want to? First, the process of writing a press release clarifies your purpose. It makes you distill your event down to its essence. It requires you to tell your story in a way that’s snappy and memorable. Sounds like a great exercise, even if it results in zero news coverage. Plus, you can always pop your shiny new press release on your website on a page called “Media Info.” That way, it benefits anyone who visits your site.
But what if you don’t want to do all this work without a payoff? I hear you. I know what a time-suck it can be to fire off a thoughtful, personal, thoughtfully crafted pitch only to receive a form rejection (or, more commonly, no response at all).
However. The payoff with press releases is often intangible. The real payoff is this: Now a gatekeeper in the media knows who you are. What you’re doing. And how to get in touch with you. THESE ARE THE PEOPLE YOU WANT TO KNOW YOU. Even if they just scan your email and press delete, your message will register in some part of their brains. Because it is their JOB to know about people in their area who are doing things related to their beats.
Case study: Last week, me, my publisher and associate publisher sat down to brainstorm for a feature on local style-makers. We threw out the first names that crossed our minds. Plenty of those people had sent me press releases that I hadn’t responded to. But I still read their emails and took note of what was happening. Then in the meeting, I could be all, “Oh, yeah, she’s got a lot going on. New book release, a prominent blog, events… yeah, definitely put HER on the list.”
That is what you want. And that is why you should write a press release.
Of course, if you do a fantastic job, have a great story, impeccable timing and a huge dash of luck, you might actually strike editorial gold and GET FREE PUBLICITY — which obviously is the number-one answer to why you need a press release. More on that jackpot in part two: HOW TO WRITE A PRESS RELEASE
P.S. If you’re in the NOLA area and want free marketing advice from a socially responsible PR agency TODAY (Feb. 5, 2015), hit up HERO Farm‘s Marketing Happy Hour Event from 4 p.m.-6 p.m. at World of Beer (4100 Veterans Memorial Blvd.). These guys are solid. I interviewed them in 2012 for Gambit, when they were honored as one of our 40 under 40 achievers, and endorse them wholeheartedly.