How to get a journalist to read your press release and run your story

16 September 2021  |  Insights
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What can you do to avoid your press release being deleted? (image: Sam Pak/Unsplash)

During my years as a newsroom journalist, it’s fair to say thousands of press releases passed through my inbox. Many went straight in the bin, others caught my attention and made the news.

But what was it about them that led to a ‘yay’ or a ‘nay’?

Here’s my best advice for you when sending press releases to journalists. Three questions all journalists will ask are: who are you, what are you saying, and why should I care?

Who are you?

You may not have considered this, but it’s not always the subject line that will be the first decision-making factor for the journalist.

Ideally, you will have built some sort of connection with them, or they are familiar with you (you as a person, not your company or organisation, unless it’s a particularly newsworthy brand) first. You see, relationship is crucial to this process – to the whole of PR really.

It’s more likely the journalist will open and read and run your story if they know who you are, that you’re trustworthy and you’ve probably sent them a decent story.

If this is your first contact with the journalist, then at the very least do some research and address them by their first name.

At Jersey Road PR, we specialise in targeting specific journalists with stories we think they’ll run with. We’ve spent time building connection and trust with them and know it’s a two-way transaction, both parties benefit from this relationship. They get a decent story, and our clients get good coverage.

What are you saying?

Next, think about your story: what are you saying? Pay particular attention to your subject line and your opening paragraphs. This is where you should top load the key facts, hooks and glistening detail of your story.

Let me be really clear here, don’t try to spin something to a journalist. They will see right through it, and reduce your chances of getting coverage. Just tell them what the story is about – the who, what, where, when, and why.

Write your press release in a way that tells the story clearly and accurately. Also, check for typos. Personally I hate typos, and as a journalist I found them really off-putting. They imply a lack of professionalism and that you don’t really care about what you’re trying to communicate with me.

If using quotes from spokespeople, use them for colour and interest, not for putting facts in. And to help you keep it fairly succinct, put any extra detail to the story in the ‘Notes for Editors’ section under the press release. In the main body of the release, you only want to include what’s essential for the journalist.

Steer clear of puns, wordplay or abstract language. Just use plain English and imagine you’re briefly explaining the story to a friend. How would you do that?

Why should I care?

If you don’t have a story, a journalist won’t run a non-story. That's a fact. GIve them a story they will care about, then you’re more likely to get it onto the screens and speakers of a much bigger audience.

What you think is a story is not necessarily a story. Spend some time distilling what the real story is that you want to share – think about how what you want to say will resonate with the journalist’s readers or viewers. How will the world be a better place if the issue or product I have is showcased to the world?

What do you know or have to say that people will care about, and how will they respond? If you don’t really know or there isn’t a story, then abandon your press release efforts this time and find another way to reach your PR objectives.

Written by Andrew Horton, Head of Content, Jersey Road PR.

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