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Marketing / Public relations, PR

How to write media releases that get attention

Want to get your product or brand in the media spotlight? Follow this six-step guide on how to write media releases.

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I was recently offered a free bikini wax by a new day spa that was seeking media coverage.

It wasn’t even the fact that I’m a male journalist writing predominately in the business arena that turned me off. Rather, it was how the media release began that trigged a swift stab at my ‘delete’ key.

‘Dear Ladies!” it exclaimed from my inbox.

‘How could this be?’ I thought as I stroked my particularly masculine beard. ‘Does this day spa know something that I don’t?’

But let’s not get off track here. This isn’t a story about my pursuant existential crisis. It’s simply a randomly selected example of the poor media releases that have been flooding my inbox of late.

Problem number one: By mistaking me for a woman, the sender of this press release made it clear that I was simply an anonymous name on a media list.

"Journalists are not interested in advertising your product or brand – if you want to place an ad, they’ll be the first to tell you to call their advertising department."

Problem number two: None of the publications I write for – and the readers who read them – are interested in the condition of my bikini area.

Problem number three: Offering me a freebie – however kind – does not a story make.

These are the three most common mistakes businesses make when writing their own media releases. And the good news is they’re all easy to overcome.

So, how do you avoid these mistakes and write press releases that will make the media stand up and pay attention? Follow this six-step guide on how to write media releases…

Step one: Understand your angle

Here’s the number-one thing you need to know: a media release is not an advertisement. Whenever a client comes to me for help writing their media releases, this is always the first conversation we have, and it’s the most important thing to get right.

First and foremost, your media release must clearly articulate a specific story angle. Journalists are not interested in advertising your product or brand – if you want to place an ad, they’ll be the first to tell you to call their advertising department.

Journalists are looking for stories that will offer value to their readers, and if you want them to give you the time of day, you must build your media release around a relevant angle.

To do this, think about the stories you can tell around your brand or product. Have you pioneered a new technology in your production chain? Have you achieved an industry first? Is your product the first to fulfill a consumer need? Is there a spending upswing in your industry sector?

Step two: Show me the numbers

Most journalists – good ones anyway – will want some form of independent data to lend their stories credibility and relevance.

Providing numbers from a recent survey, study or credible industry whitepaper in your media releases will significantly boost your chances of making the shortlist.

Ensure that any numbers or survey results you provide reinforce your angle and why it’s relevant to the readership of the publication you’re pitching to.

For example, if you’ve developed a new range of maternity wear, it may be useful to include figures that demonstrate the size of the market and survey results that show the most pressing consumer challenges in the space.

Step three: Provide printable quotes

In a perfect world, journalists will seek to personally interview story subjects. However, the nature of tight deadlines in a content-hungry industry often means that journalists and bloggers will publish quotes directly from media releases.

To put your media release at the head of the pack, ensure you include printable quotes that clearly cite the interviewee with name, position title and company.

When writing quotes, try to focus on adding insights to the facts and figures that moves the story forward. And – depending on the target publication – adding a little personality to your quotes doesn’t hurt either.

Also keep in mind that a journalist may publish quotes taken from your media release without notifying you, so ensure they don’t include any factual inaccuracies or can be taken out of context.

Step four: Less is more

A busy journalist will receive upwards of 300 press releases on any given day, so it’s imperative to keep your release to a maximum of one page.

Clearly articulate the angle of your media release in the headline – and email subject line – and get straight to the point in the first paragraph. And remember to stay on topic. Don’t confuse the angle with superfluous material that’s not relevant to the message.

Most journalists will have read thousands of media releases, and will take only seconds to briefly scan yours in search of a clear angle they can build a story around. If it’s not there, they’ll quickly move on.

Step five: Get it right

Any journalist is only as good as their sources, and if your media release contains any factual inaccuracies, or – much worse – fabricated research or survey results, you’ll quickly be relegated to their blacklist.

Poorly written releases that are filled with grammatical errors, spelling mistakes and incomplete sentences will also instantly undermine your credibility and win you a date with the delete key.

Think about it this way: if you can’t clearly articulate your industry insights in a press release, why would I bother interviewing you?

Step six: Be available

Building relationships with journalists and bloggers comes with a commitment. Most of us work to deadlines that are not negotiable – we either file the story by the set deadline, or go home.

If you want to impress a journalist, provide your direct contact details on the media release and be available.

I’m mystified how many times I’ll follow up a press release with an interview request, only to be passed from receptionist, to marketing manager, to PA – and back again – as your team tries to figure out whose job it is to handle my request.

Meanwhile, chances are I’ve missed my deadline and you’ve lost your media coverage.

On the flip side, my address book is full of business leaders I can call directly for a quote that’s relevant to their expertise. They’re all there because they answer my calls, have clearly articulated their industry position, demonstrated their credibility, and consistently offer meaningful insights that go beyond advertising their immediate interests.

Have you had good success submitting press releases to journalists? What’s your top tip on how to write media releases?

Shane Conroy

is an experienced freelance journalist and copywriter. He helps solopreneurs and micro business owners create the content that powers their marketing and PR activities.

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