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.
“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.
“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.
“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
“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
“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
“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.
“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
“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
“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