By Chanda Temple
I worked as a reporter for 20 years before starting a career in public relations in 2012. And I can tell you that not all press releases are created equally.
When I was a reporter, some releases went on forever before I found the news. Others offered no news value at all and left me wondering, “Why did they send this to me?” Still others tried to be cute and funny but totally turned me off. I’m sure the sender thought they had just sent a masterpiece, when in reality, it was a master fail.
Writing press releases is hard. Here are some tips to help sharpen your skills.
1) Capture reporters’ attention in the first seven to 10 words
Don’t make reporters hunt for the news. Reporters want the info upfront and fast. If you make them hunt for what you are selling or fail to grab their attention in 2 to 3 seconds, they are moving on to the next email. Once you hook them with the email subject line, make sure your content is interesting.
2) Don’t lie
You will lose credibility fast with reporters if you promise that a celebrity or high-ranking politician, for example, will be available for an on-air interview or press conference. If the celebrity is a no-show the day of the show and this becomes a habit with you, your name will be “Mud” with that television station.
3) Speak in plain English
Cut out your industry lingo. The everyday person doesn’t get it. You have to talk in plain English so that everyone (reporters and the public) will understand what you are trying to say or sell. Remind your CEO or talking head that when they talk to general reporters, they need to talk in layman’s terms.
It’s a different story if your release is targeted toward a reporter that covers your industry and will appear in an industry-related publication, blog and video. But in general, keep your pitches simple.
4) Have something to say
Don’t just send a press release for the sake of sending one. Make sure it contains significant news.
5) Update your media lists
Reporter Charlie Smith is still on your media list but Charlie hasn’t worked at the local ABC affiliate in a year. It’s always good to review those lists to make sure your releases are getting to the right person. Call the media outlet and ask them which people need to receive releases on certain topics.
6) Know what reporters cover
Not all reporters at the same media organization have to get your releases. If reporter Shelly Smith writes about gardening, she may not really care if your nonprofit is offering free tax preparation services during tax season. So don’t send it to her. Find out which reporter or photographer covers your topic.
Chanda Temple worked as a reporter for 20 years before becoming a public relations professional. She blogs about being better in business, building buzz and more at http://www.chandatemplewrites.com. Follow her on Twitter at @chandatemple.