4 mistakes I made when writing my first media release and how to avoid them

- April 7, 2020 3 MIN READ

Last year I started my PR journey, sending out my first media release. With no responses (other than a suggestion I try advertising), these are my lessons learnt and practical tips for getting published.

According to the latest ABS statistics, there are over 2 million small businesses in Australia. And with less than 20 employees, it is unlikely these businesses will have an in-house PR professional. Along with ordering the milk, PR is something that typically falls to small business owners. I wrote and sent out my first media release late last year. These are the mistakes I made, how to avoid them, plus a few things I got right from the start. 

Don’t advertise – instead write something that adds value to the reader

The number one mistake small businesses make when writing a media release is to advertise. This sounds simple but is hard to avoid until you know what it looks like. It is easy to imagine that journalists need evidence of you or your business’ credibility in the media release. And for beginners, this doesn’t immediately look like advertising.   

I wrote a media release on tips for longevity in business. In the first (unsuccessful) version of the release I included the following in the first paragraph: “So how [insert company name] – due to celebrate 20 years in the industry next year – stayed the course.” Later I included an industry example along with how my company did things differently. 

The only response after a follow up was from an advertising department.  

This rejection, in hindsight, was helpful. It made me step back and realise that this sentence, and anything specifically about my company and industry, was unnecessary. It did not add value to a business owner looking for tips on how to sustain their business. Delete.

Don’t spam lots of journalists – send personalised targeted emails

There is varying advice on whether to send your media release to multiple journalists at once. And it will depend a lot on your angle. As this piece was general business advice, I sent it off to about 20 journalists, changing the first name in each email. 

After receiving no response, and having updated my release as per the above, I wrote a targeted email to one journalist. I used their first name and referred to their publication and their target audience. Yes, it may have been that the release was better, but I also believe it helped that the email was personalised. Success.

Don’t send out to all journalists covering a particular industry – do your research

I am a bit embarrassed to say that among the many journalists I emailed, I included a well-respected business journalist who writes high profile pieces on the banking industry. Wrong. 

The second time around I spent more time researching. I looked at publications targeted at business, the types of articles they were including, the frequency they published material and a sample of their headlines. Luckily, I found a publication that I thought my release would be perfect for. Tick. 

Don’t make your release too long – keep it short and succinct

Media releases only need to be 500-600 words long. With the advertising deletions, I brought the second version of my release within this word count. Perfect.

Do include statistics and quotes, and consider your timing

My media release did include some positive elements from the start. First, I used up-to-date statistics at the beginning of the release. I also added short, relevant quotes that broke up the text. Next, I timed the release with Melbourne’s spring racing carnival, using racing lingo in the headline and opening paragraph, which I felt might increase its chance of success.

My final piece of advice: don’t be afraid of doing a take two. 

This post was written by Guy Cooper, Managing Director at Wave Digital Pty Ltd

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