Press Release Tips to Get You Noticed: 15 Journalists Tell You How

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Press Release Tips to Get You Noticed: 15 Journalists Tell You How

We’ve all heard from plenty of PR geniuses about how to optimize your press release and pitch for your best chance at coverage, but it’s rare to hear from the journalists, bloggers and TV and radio producers themselves.

Probably because they’re busy plowing through the thousands of press releases we send them every day.

So we probed the minds and writings of newspaper, TV, radio and blog journalists from all over the United States for their press release tips — and pet peeves.

Here are their best tips for getting your press release noticed – the right way.

Pitch a relevant story.

Chris-Chamberlain
Chris Chamberlain

“Even a short note about how your release might relate to the type of topic that my readers care about really stands out.” — Chris Chamberlain, Nashville Scene

“Make it relevant.” — Christina Belisle, freelancer

“I’m a data journalist, and I get press releases for book signings, people soliciting interviews about celebrity gossip, a shocking number of food-related announcements and for some reason updates from a guy who says he invented a new kind of muffler.” — Danny Willis, Bay Area News Group

Make it easy to find the info.

“I appreciate PR pitches that have all the relevant information up front. I’ve seen plenty of pitches with bullet points lately and that doesn’t bother me a bit.” — Lesley Lassiter, Lesleyeats.com

“Put the contact info right up top followed by a sentence or two summarizing what it’s about. Nothing starts a PR flak off on the wrong foot like making me hunt through small print at the very bottom to figure out who you are.” — Danny Willis, Bay Area News Group

“Make sure you actually tell us the who, what, where, when, why, how within — otherwise there’s less reason for us to care.” — Christina Belisle, freelancer

Max out your subject field and headline.

Heidi-Hall
Heidi Hall

“Catchy subject line without overselling. And then get to the point.” — Heidi Hall, The Tennessean

“A valid subject line is crucial. One that is bad might still get read. One that is misleading will make me mad and I’ll just delete with no response.” — Lesley Lassiter, Lesleyeats.com

“Give us a reason to care in the title.” — Christina Belisle, freelancer

“I’ll automatically delete:
Subject: PRESS RELEASE
Subject: Interview opportunity.” — Patrick Ary, WAAY-TV Huntsville

Think like their audience.

Andy-Ashby
Andy Ashby

“If you really want to get the attention of a serious journalist working at a serious publication, talk realistically about impact. My editor always asks, ‘So what, who cares?’ Tell people in that industry why they should care.” — Andy Ashby, Memphis Business Journal

“If I am using a press release to inform my listeners, I’m thinking about what I would want to know as a listener. If it’s an event benefiting a charity, I want to know why and what that charity does. If it’s just a concert, I want to know when tickets go on sale and where I can buy them and who the opening act is.” — Ana Lee, Lightning 100

Keep it short and smart.

“Write your release well in case there are sections that are appropriate for cutting and pasting. (Attributed, of course.) I always say there’s a reason they call it ‘copy.'” — Chris Chamberlain, Nashville Scene

“Keep it short, keep it clean. Journalists read a ton of emailed press releases. If it’s two pages, it’ll cause eyes to glaze over. Write succinctly and then give us the contact info.” — Andy Ashby, Memphis Business Journal

“Short e-mail pitches. I ditch e-mails after one or two sentences if they aren’t getting to the point.” Ben Parr, former editor of Mashable

Greg-Kumparak
Greg Kumparak

“If you got a few hundred/thousand e-mails a day, how would you prefer e-mails be written? Less is more. Know how to make your pitch in a sentence or two — if you can’t wrap up your own product in a concise and interesting way, we probably won’t be able to either.” Greg Kumparak, mobile editor, TechCrunch

Avoid overkill.

“Here’s what bothers me as a reporter: When the first sentence of a quote says ‘We’re really excited…’ I delete that every time. ‘We’re really excited to be moving offices, we’re really excited to hire this person, etc.'” — Andy Ashby, Memphis Business Journal

“Don’t email me a press release, call me to tell me you emailed me a press release, then email me to tell me you left me a voice mail about a press release, all within the span of 10 minutes. Don’t send me the exact same press release five times within the span of 30 seconds. Yes, it catches my attention, but it also makes me want to set you on fire.” — Danny Willis, Bay Area News Group

Randy-McClain
Randy McClain

“Good press releases have the facts, a coherent presentation and zero hyperbole.” — Randy McClain, The Republic

“I’ll automatically delete anything that I can tell is someone trying too hard to get my interest (‘Fantastic opportunity for coverage,’ or ‘DON’T MISS THIS’).” — Patrick Ary, WAAY-TV Huntsville

Respect your readers.

“(Avoid) too many extraneous adjectives and adverbs. I often see PR pros slip them into stories. I think they hope a lazy/overworked reporter or editor will not edit these out and these overly-flattering descriptors will make it into a story. However, these irritate responsible journalists and they’re a pain to edit out. — Andy Ashby, Memphis Business Journal

“Whatever you do, don’t send a complete pre-written story with a brief header giving me permission to run it as long as I don’t change it at all. Trust me, any publication where an editor will let a reporter run a PR firm’s story verbatim doesn’t have enough readers to make it a good use of your time.” — Danny Willis, Bay Area News Group

“I get roughly 100-200 emails a day. I delete 95% of news releases that come into my inbox.” — Patrick Ary, WAAY-TV Huntsville

Read what they write.

Lesley-Lassiter
Lesley Lassiter

“Some indication that the writer has looked at my blog and knows something about me. For example, I recently got a pitch from a barbecue restaurant where the PR person wrote, ‘I know you wouldn’t typically want to try out a new barbecue restaurant, but we have some really great sides for a veggie platter.’ Ah, thank you for taking 5 seconds to see that I’m a vegetarian, which is very clear on my site, just above my contact info.” — Lesley Lassiter, Lesleyeats.com

“Number one is to prove that you actually read my stuff and know what I write about.” — Chris Chamberlain, Nashville Scene

“I actually appreciate people who figure out what I do and try to appeal to that and am likely to, even if I’m busy, at least give them a chance to make a pitch.” — Danny Willis, Bay Area News Group

Build a relationship.

“Writers are looking for scoops and ideas for articles. Help them and you’ll start getting their attention (which you can use in the future for whatever you’re working on).” Steve Poland, former TechCrunch writer

“Honestly, even in the age of e-mail and social media, the best way to get someone’s attention where I work is to call and make a pitch … THEN send the e-mail. If we’re interested, we’ll take a closer look at the press release.” — Patrick Ary, WAAY-TV Huntsville

“Build relationships with the press BEFORE you need them. There’s no magic to this, but helping journalists out with stories, guest posts, and leaks and stuff beforehand helps you build a relationship that you can then use when you launch your own company.” – Robert Scoble, tech blogger

Think beyond print.

“The easier you make our lives, the better. Linking to an explanation video really helps, as do screenshots.” — Ben Parr, former editor of Mashable

“Add-ons like photographs and recipes are also very useful for me.” — Chris Chamberlain, Nashville Scene

christina-warren
Christina Warren

“Make your assets easily available. If you have video, make it available as an embed. Have appropriate sized screenshots. It also really helps if these videos and screenshots are interesting and relevant. If you have a mobile app, offer up a promo code in the pitch to minimize my time having to ask if I can have one.” Christina Warren, Mashable tech reporter

Ride a news wave.

“Attempt to tie in a company’s news, whenever possible, with regional or national trends — although this strategy should not be forced or the truth stretched.” — Randy McClain, The Republic

Offer free stuff.

“I am freelance, so I am under no obligation to refuse free stuff. When I get free stuff and I review it, I indicate as such and I appreciate it greatly. Requests for me to try products without any coupon or invitation are pointless (unless they are for charitable organizations, of course). ‘I think you would like this product and you should try it. You can find it at your local grocery store’ is not enticing in the least.” — Lesley Lassiter, Lesleyeats.com

Be ready for a follow-up.

“Executives of the company should be available to talk about the content of press releases whenever they’re quoted as sources in the material.” — Randy McClain, The Republic

“When I get a pitch about a new product, I will check to see if it’s available locally. If I can’t find out the info from the website, I’ll respond with that question (or with other questions about the product) and about half the time, the email goes unanswered.” — Lesley Lassiter, Lesleyeats.com

Keep trying.

MG-Siegler
MG Siegler

“Persistence is usually a good method — even when we don’t respond. Eventually we might — it just depends on the workload for the most part.” MG Siegler, TechCruch columnist

“Just because we don’t cover you now doesn’t mean we can’t cover you later. I get inundated with so many requests, it is simply impossible to cover every company that I see that I think is interesting. Moreover, not every story is right for our audience or for the current news cycle. That doesn’t mean I don’t read pitches and that if I’ve spoken with you, I won’t do my best to give you a mention in a round-up, a how-to post or when discussing your general industry. — Christina Warren, Mashable tech reporter

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Courtney Seiter wrangled a smart, savvy community of Internet marketers as Raven's first Community Manager. She moved on from Raven in January 2014, but her social media and writing advice stands the test of time.

| @courtneyseiter

Tell us what you think

  • Rajan Hossain

    Amazing, I am a new writer in this field, but this was very helpful….thanks a zillion…

  • Abhiram Pathak

    These are excellent tips for press release writing. All information is really attractive. I got to know the importance of press release from this blog. Thanks for your valuable information.

  • Julia McCoy

    Awesome Courtney! PR Newswire sold us and our clients on quality. Unlike some of the other big names in PR (which we need not mention). Keeping journalism and people #1 is HUGE to us.

  • RavenCourtney

    Thanks, Julia! We certainly agree that PR Newswire is a great choice – Raven is enjoying our partnership with them, too!

  • Julia McCoy

    These are excellent tips for press release writing! Also if you want to think in terms of distribution, think about quality. We highly recommend PR Newswire and have a great partnership with them.

  • RavenCourtney

    We don’t at present, but that’s not a bad idea at all. I’ll talk to our team about maybe adding some resources to that tool. Thanks for the feedback!

  • Dexx Williams

    Courtney, I haven’t done a test order yet, but does Raven Tools have some of the structure tips from this article already implemented for the ordering of a release?

    i.e. Contact info and key points up front. The “why someone should care” etc?

    Or is that just something that would be done by the PR company upon ordering?

  • RavenCourtney

    Thanks for your thoughts, Joe. We’re happy about the integration, too!

  • http://WhatcomMarketing.com/ Joe @ Whatcom Marketing

    Things haven’t changed that much since I was working with SMB customers and marketing agencies looking to get the most from press releases being launched via PRWeb (the original online press release distribution service) 5 years ago. This article confirms what’s important to the media and also reveals the ability for your press release to bypass the media filter and arrive directly on your target audience’s lap. So, while it never hurts to get media pick-up, you also need to write your releases for the intended audience.

    Kudos to Raven Tools for including the ability to create and launch press releases directly from the Raven Tools dashboard … working smarter, not harder.

  • RavenCourtney

    Thanks, Ruben! This is a little journalistic soapbox aside, but I think press releases are more viable than ever before. As newsrooms continue to downsize their staff (don’t get me started on that) and look for cost-saving measures, journalists are tasked with doing twice as much in the same amount of time.

    So if someone is feeding reporters relevant, smart story pitches that actually matter to their readers, they’re more likely than ever to act on them. Anyway, thanks for reading!

  • http://www.tweetfind.com Ruben Orozco

    Great post Courtney! Agree on Pitching a relevant story.. Don’t just spew cool features, tell the story to engage your targeted audience. Press Releases are still a viable way to distribute news! Ive had great results with PrLeap.com