Journalists tell us how to write the perfect press release

PRmoment.com gives some top tips for getting on the right side of journos, from journos. 

1. Work out what the news story is

Joe Fernandez, assistant editor at Pitch says that the worst press releases are the ones that provide you with just snippets of information, but have no actual context behind the words. He explains: “It's almost as if the writers assume the journalist will just copy and paste without editing or wondering how to make the release news.“

2. Include a picture

Another criticism Fernandez has is that PROs sometimes fail to include images for time-sensitive releases, as he says that having a picture easily accessible is always useful.

3. Find the most interesting angle, or a journalist may find one you don’t like

Freelance journalist Mark Gordon Palmer says the first question he asks himself after seeing a press release is whether the story is worth repeating. He then considers which angle to pursue: “If the story is worth writing about, but the press release itself rather dull, then it’s a journalist’s job to mould it accordingly and be extra creative in order to drain every last drop of interest out of it. This could be a danger though, for those sending you the press release, as the journalist could take a view that deviates too far from what the press release was trying to say.”

4. But don’t be too creative

Gordon Palmer believes that if a press release is too creative, there is less room left for the writer to add their own stamp: “This tempts journalists to just write up the press release nearly word for word; and most writers with a creative conscience will be put off by that idea.”

Louise Jack, assistant editor at Pitch, says that she likes press releases which are simple and stick to the facts rather than try to build a story themselves, “unless they have done that specifically for my publication, then it’s easier if PROs just tell me the basics and I'll decide what the story is, thanks.”

5. Don’t give up just because you have had no response

Journalists get inundated with press releases, and this means that most of these will get ignored and rarely acknowledged. However, it does not follow that a journalist is never going to respond. Gordon Palmer admits that he often deletes press releases without opening them, because he knows they are not about a topic that interests him, but he claims that this is his problem, not the PRO‘s: “Although I may sometimes ignore press releases from a certain source, they are still worth signing up to, because one day they could be worth it. So if anyone wishes to send me more press releases than I already receive, my inbox is always open.”

Pitch’s Jack agrees that press releases are useful, and that it is unfair of journalists to rubbish them, when they rely on them: “There are only so many investigative journalism jobs about and in the absence of that possibility, we count on PROs to help us keep up with the voracious demand for content, content, content. Press releases? I am for them.”

Soundbites

PROs offer their tips for getting into the press:

Alan O'Sullivan, account director at PR firm Fleishman-Hillard:

“Top publications do use information from press releases, but usually only in three cases:

1. If it is a new product launch and the product is actually good

2. If it contains a new, wide-ranging study

3. If there is a good quote on a topical subject the journalist was writing about anyway, in which case they take out the quote.”

Rich Leigh, account director, at PR agency 10 Yetis:

“Topical releases, with survey-led responses can, and do, regularly make lead news stories, it’s just a case of realising which outlets are most likely to be receptive to releases. The likes of The Sun, The Daily Mail and Heat tend to be very open to receiving celebrity-focused stories, while papers such as The Guardian and The Telegraph prefer tech stories, or public responses to political issues.”

Lois McCloud, account manager at PR agency Cirkle:

"If you want to get a particular message across, picking up the phone is always the best way to do it. Tone of voice conveys so much and if you can get excited about a story, you have a much better chance of stirring the journalists interest and securing coverage. With the national press in particular, selling in an exclusive over the phone is absolutely crucial.”

And if none of these top tips or advice work, maybe you are best adviced to just get new job!

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