Ever wonder why you sent out a press release and nothing happened?

Public relations is more than knowing the right people and having a list to email press releases to. Of course, it helps if you have relationships, and the team here has them with a variety of outlets, from the local San Diego media to people at the Wall Street Journal, the real estate trades, defense industry publications, the green world and action sports magazines (just to name drop a few ;-).

However, for many journalists, press releases are a quarter-step above SPAM.  And some probably consider them a few steps below.  Here are some things to consider before you start writing your next release.

Let’s start with what you’re sending and who you're sending it to.

We’ll assume here that you’re sending a press release to garner editorial coverage somewhere and not for SEO related purposes (if it is for SEO, use a newswire,  instead of spamming our busy journalist friends).

Look at the publication you're going to. Is what you're sending something they would cover? Despite appearances, it takes more than a pretty face to land you editorial in a publication such as Maxim. And your zip code alone doesn't warrant coverage in Riviera San Diego. Make sure what' you're sending is relevant. Look at the outlet and see where your story would fit.

Next, make sure you're sending it to the right person. Journalists at different media outlets have different jobs, similar to other companies. Your IT person probably doesn't handle the landscaping, so don't send a press release on a new product launch to someone you know covers financials for the same industry. They may appreciate being kept in the loop, but at the end of the day, they probably won't write about it. Target your releases for the right person at each publication.

Keep it relevant and realistic.

Let’s say that your story (not press release) is newsworthy.  Is your release readable, or is it filled with jargon, fluff and poor writing?  Is it paradigm shifting for Web 5.0?  Does it have typos like this blog post?

The release – in a formal sense – should have all the facts and stats a journalist may need to begin crafting a story.  But personalize it with a pitch (more on that below) and explain how this is right for their audience.

If you do have some news, now you have to find the right people it’s appropriate for.  Generally speaking, it’s “your list”.

This was touched on earlier, but it's extremely important in your PR efforts. Before you send something out, think about if it’s appropriate for the people you’re sending it to?  The “PR blast” is a tool that needs to go away… it annoys journalists more than it helps.  In fact, get rid of the list.  Target your press releases with a quick elevator-style pitch – or as some people call it – Tweeting (we’re joking here… kind of).  Put a 3-10 line description – keep it brief and relevant.   If your elevator pitch (or Tweet) sells the story, then the journalist will turn to the release for more.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a PR newbie or have friends throughout the world of journalism, if your story isn’t appropriate, they’re not going to write about it.

When it comes down to “the list”, realize that if your story is appropriate, it won’t really matter if you know the right contacts or not.  You can find them.  Walt Mossberg and the folks @ Cnet will cover your new MP3 player if it indeed does redefine the listening experience for lifestyle consumers with unique audio needs.

In all seriousness (and perhaps as a better example), the Remedy team did a project involving accessories for firearms enthusiasts. We had very little background in firearms prior to this. None of us own guns and have limited experience using them. That didn’t matter to the client.  We know how to write, how to find the right journalists and how to engage them.   And we didn’t mass blast to journalists. By not blasting them with releases that are irrelevant is one way we maintain that friendships we have. By targeting the right people with the releases is another way we build them.

When are you sending your news?

Here’s a secret… journalists are people too.  They have deadlines and things going on at work besides waiting for story ideas to come in.  Sometimes they work weekends, but many try to have what some refer to as “a life” outside of work too.

So when are you sending your pitch and press release?  Here’s a general tip – don’t email it over the weekend or at 4:30 on a Friday unless you want it to get ignored.  Depending on if you’re targeting print publications (daily, weekly or otherwise), online or TV/radio, you really need to adjust accordingly as well. Don’t just blast out the release to everyone you know.


PR is similar to sales in that you have to sell your story to the journalist. Many don't want to be called, but if you have something worthwhile you think they'd really be into (again, if you don't, why are you sending out a release in the first place?), you need to follow-up. On the phone.

Putting together a PR program doesn’t require an advanced degree in media relations (although Bill does have an advanced certificate in social media)… most people we know in the industry actually didn’t even study PR in college.  But there is some strategy and thought that you need to have if you want to get your stories covered.  Just spend some time and think about it before you hit the send button… and maybe don’t hit that button at all.

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