Media Mayhem Managed
How to Write a Press Release
Promote Your Business with Press Releases
By: Tammy York
In the following pages, we’ll break down what a press release is, the structure of a press release, how to find the right media to send the press release to, and what to do when the media calls for an interview.
I’m sharing with you over 25 years of experience and expertise. My experience encompasses thousands of press releases which resulted in thousands of television, radio, newspaper, online newspaper, consumer magazine, trade magazine, newsletter, and influencer interviews and coverage.
If you have any legal ramifications of your interview, then you need to consult an attorney and a media crisis manager to help you with what to say.
Follow the guidelines, be a nice human, produce honest newsworthy press releases and you’ll get interviews too.
Tammy York is an award-winning speaker, best-selling author, writer, and owner of LandShark Communications LLC.
At the end of Media Mayhem Managed I have a special offer to help you fast track your media relations.
Have you ever wondered:
How does my competition get on the news and I don’t?
Is my press release any good?
How can I create a press release that gets covered?
Ah! How do I even write a press release?
Who is the right media to send the press release to and how do I find them?
How do I prepare for an interview with the media?
Do these questions sound familiar?
If you answered yes, then this book is for you.
I understand where you are as I have been in your shoes. In fact, my experience with the media goes all the way back to college.
I’ve served all sides of the news desk: reporter, editor, press release creator, interviewee, media relations trainer, crisis media manager, and editorial planner.
What’s In It For You?
Field experience is a hard teacher, and I’ve made some impressive mistakes in my journey. You can skip those same mistakes as well as the steep learning curve. Read Media Mayhem Managed and you’ll benefit from what I have learned pitching stories to the media. You too will soon be utilizing the vast media resource to share your message with the world.
Since I’ve spent a lot of time with the reporters and editors and this has given me unique insights on how the press thinks about stories.
I know what elements they are looking for in a story.
Editors and reporters aren’t mythological creatures who want to eat you alive.
They are people just like you and I – just a bit more skeptical – okay a lot more skeptical.
Let’s Get Started!
Attention Seeking Press Releases
No matter how you refer to it the press release, news release, or media release is a great way of working with the media to share your message about your business, entrepreneurial enterprise, church, or civic group.
One little snag – getting the media to cover your story is not as simple as sending a press release to the media.
Pitching a story to the media via a press release is your best chance of getting their attention if you do it well.
Never forget that the media you are pitching to has devoted a lot of time, money, and effort carefully cultivating their audience – and they aren’t going to let just anyone onto their stage.
You’re Asking The Media To Put You In Front of Their Audience.
From businesses to churches and community groups to government, the press release is the expected and respected way to get the media’s attention (not dancing around naked on their front lawn).
What is Media?
The term “media” keeps expanding. Media used to refer to media outlets such as print, television, and radio.
“The Media” now refers to a much larger expanse that includes print newspapers, online newspapers, television, radio, podcasts, online radio shows, webzines, newsletters, and more.
It doesn’t stop there however as there are influencers (bloggers, vloggers, YouTubers, and more) who fall into the broad category of “the media.”
Influencers are people with an online presence with enough fans, viewers, or followers to influence their tribe. Online venues include but are not limited to the influencers website, YouTube, Facebook, Facebook Live, Periscope, Twitter, Snap Chat, Instagram, Tumblr, and I’m sure a few more that have cropped up since writing this book.
Influencers can be famous with millions of followers. Don’t, however, let massive numbers fool you. Often working with niche-focused influencers leads to incredible results. While influencers without enormous followings might not have the impressive numbers, they do have a loyal and trusting audience.
In my opinion, a loyal and trusting audience wins.
Influencers are typically pay-to-play unless your message is community service based and is relevant to their community.
How do you communicate with such a broad span of media outlets?
The Press Release
Did you know that you have less than 3 seconds to grab an editor’s or reporter’s attention?
Three as in
One • Two • Three
TIME IS UP!
Your press release is either being saved or tossed into the recycling bin.
Well-crafted press releases, tilt the odds in your favor.
Follow the standard guidelines and create press releases that are in the correct format, on target, and succinct.
What is a press release?
First, let’s make sure we are all on the same page of the same book.
A press release is a systemized way to communicate with the media about your company, organization, or agency.
Actual (Antiquated) Definition:
An official statement issued to newspapers giving information on a particular matter.
Our world moves a lot faster than back in the days of typesetting.
While social media accounts are a common way to share information, press releases are still relevant to getting your information in front of the media. It is the primary way the media receives communications.
Press releases or news releases must contain content that is worthy of being covered. Ask yourself, “Is it beneficial to the community?”
Be selective on what you send out via a press release.
The absolute worst thing you can do for your business is:
- Send out press releases that aren’t
- Constantly send out press releases that aren’t newsworthy.
If you do, it won’t be too long before the editor or reporter gets tired of seeing your drivel and blocks your email address.
That means when you do have a story worth covering no one will know about it.
Think of it in terms of the fable, The Boy Who Cried Wolf.
Press Release: General Anatomy Lesson
Press releases have a specific style. Follow this style to show editors and reporters that you have taken the time to respect their time and have learned how they communicate.
Press releases have the following components:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE or HOLD UNTIL XX_DATE_XX
Media Contact Information
PHOTOS: Post Link to Website with Photo Files
Subheadline (Further define the header. Keep it simple – a little humor is good.)
Location (usually DMA*)–
Content a.k.a. body (250-350 word count)
### or – 30 — (This is the notation used to end the press release)
* DMA is Demographic Marketing Area. Typically, it is the closest large city. For example, if you were in the Greenfield, IN area and were producing a press release relevant to more than the immediate Greenfield, IN area you might opt to use Indianapolis, IN as the DMA.
Sample of What a Press Release Looks Like:
Press Release: Basic Rules
- Use the structure of a formal press release. (See next page.)
- Keep it simple. Don’t get
- Do NOT include attachments with your email.
- Don’t send attachments with your email but do have the information available on your website.
- Editors and reporters are leery of opening email attachments and with good cause.
- Do include full URLs for photos and more information.
- Just like attachments, blind or short links typically won’t be opened.
- Always include the full URL address for the media.
- It is acceptable to hyperlink the link but always include the full address.
- Do NOT get CrEaTive with your fonts.
- Do not use every font you have available.
- Use Arial or Times New Roman font in 11pt or 12pt
- No bolds, CAPS, italicizing, or underlining unless called for by the AP
- Don’t bump up the font sizes to emphasize information in your press release.
- DO NOT EVER USE Comic Sans for anything besides a child’s birthday party.
- Need I say more. Nope.
- DO NOT YELL AT THE EDITOR. Writing in caps or bold or both is the same as screaming in someone’s face.
- The headline can be in caps but after that turn off the caps.
- Refrain from using the exclamation point! It is overused!
- Be succinct and shoot for a 250-350 word count in the body of the press release
- Aim for a high Flesch–Kincaid readability
- Spell out an acronym the first time it is used in the press release. For example, National Aviation and Space Administration (NASA).
- Do not include your contact info in the body of the release. Anything in the body is considered part of the release.
What is News Worthy?
That leads us to: How do you know if your story is worth a press release?
Let’s start at the beginning.
Sometimes you are too close to the topic to write about it for people who are not, or it’s difficult to narrow down all the information that you want to share to only the most relevant information.
You must get the press release down to the absolute most essential elements. To assure your press release is worthy of coverage, define what the release is about by asking yourself is this information:
- Important or helpful to your community? Your community can be a location or interest.
- What does it mean to your audience?
- Why is it important for your audience?
- Is it the truth? (Lie and the media will find out.)
Remember you are asking the editor or reporter to allow you in front of their audience. Your job is to make the media want to put you in front of their audience.
On the following page, you will find a worksheet to help you work through developing a press release that is relevant to the media’s audience.
Follow the 6Ws of a Press Release
Who • What • When • Where • Why • How.
- Who: Is involved, cares, should know?
- Help the news editor quickly decide to cover your story by defining the story.
- Use attention grabbing headlines.
- For example:
“Hunters Donate 2,000 Pounds of Meat to the Dayton Red Cross Homeless Shelter.” That is attention grabbing because no one typically thinks of hunters donating meat much less 2,000 pounds, a homeless shelter benefits, and it helped an entire community.
- What: Is it about?
- Be succinct.
- Keep the press release to only the topic of the press
- This is not the time to explore.
- While it helps to start with a broad brush, edit the content of the press release to a lean 250-350 word count.
- When: Does it happen?
- Exact times. Be specific.
- For example:
February is National Heart Month
Grand Opening from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. EST on Saturday, March 4
Free Fishing Days are Saturday, May 15 & Sunday, May 16.
- Where: Does it happen?
- Give a specific address with directions. Assume the reporter coming to interview you has been just handed the assignment and has no knowledge of the area.
- It is also helps to provide the media with information on parking in the area.
- If you are meeting in a building:
- Meet the media in the lobby or
- Use discrete visual cues like a red dot sticker or
- Give incredibly detailed directions on how to find you
- For example:
Inside the lobby take the second elevator on the right. Go to the eighth floor. When you step off the elevator turn right, walk to the end of the hall, and turn left. We are the second door on the left. #C-809. If you get lost, call Bonnie at 555-1212.
- Why: Why should anyone else care?
- Why is this important for the community?
- It might be clear to you why the media should cover your press release but not to the media. Make it clear to the world why anyone should care about what you are doing by making it personal to them.
- For example:
In Thneedville over 3 million boys and girls have never seen a tree. The Treedom Project is planting one tree for every child by enlisting the help of local Thneedville clubs.”
- How: How is this happening?
- Was it a partnership?
- A community effort?
- Is this a live event?
Information to Include in Your Press Releases
Trying to narrow down how much information you include in your press release can be a challenge.
Begin with all the information you think is relevant. Edit until only the absolute most essential elements remain.
Yes, you will slash a lot of information, but only the most relevant information should stay in the actual press release.
And, yes, some of the phrases you slash will be your favorites – that is why it is called killing your darlings.
Your final press release should be between 250-350 words in the body of the release. The leaner, the better.
Now that you are thinking of press releases take a moment and brainstorm some ideas
Press Release Worksheet:
Who should know about this? For example: parents of newborns, car owners, sports fans. List everyone who should know: ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Why should they know about it:
How will or does it help or hurt them: ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
What is it they should know? Get specific and detailed:
How did this happen:
What are the top three points that need to be made:
What is the one thing you want the audience to recall? What is your “Take Home Message”:
When does the press release need to be sent to the media:
When does the event happen: ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Who is the person who the media contact will be in contact with?
What is their contact information? The media contact MUST be available and able to answer the media’s questions or do an interview at a moment’s notice: ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
What images are available and are they loaded onto a webpage for the media:
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________Are all images properly named, attributed, and described?
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________Are you partnering with other organizations? List the organizations: ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________What are the partner organizations roles: ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________Who are the partner organizations media contacts: ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________What media outlets cover the community & audiences you need to reach with your press release: __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
We are going to breakdown the press release step by step because if you write a boring, information dense press release, you are not going to get coverage.
Editors, reporters, and videographers are some of the smartest and most driven people I have ever had the pleasure of working with in my long career. They don’t waste time.
The media moves fast.
I’ve sat in many different editors’ offices and watched them sift through hundreds of press releases that came into their office in just a couple of hours.
In a few moments, an editor thins down a stack of a hundred or more press releases to two or three stories. Think about that for a moment.
Editors sift through thousands of press releases PER DAY to find the few bits of news that are relevant to their audience.
The few that make it through the initial cull are discussed further at a news budget meeting (planning) where the editors and reporters decide the fate of the story – whether they are going to cover it and if so how they are going to cover the story.
Wondering what gets covered: local, hyper-focused interest, feel-good, and human interest.
What will work for you depends on who your audience is but here are some tried and true methods of developing a good press release.
The pyramid to the right is called an inverted pyramid.
The reason? It’s upside down. (ha ha ha)
An inverted pyramid is an excellent visual representation of how to think of the information in your press release.
Most writers start with the least important information and three paragraphs into the press release finally get to the most important.
By flipping this paradigm literally on its head, you can quickly grab the editor’s attention.
Let’s Breakdown the Inverted Pyramid
The “Most Important” Section:
The headline, subheadline, and first paragraph are where you define what your press release is about:
- Use your headline and subheadline/tagline to convey the Take Home Message.
- Don’t waste this valuable real estate. Use it!
- Begin your press release with the most important information first.
- Content is the meat and potatoes of your press release. It fills in the information of the headline.
Some examples of headlines with taglines:
For an Event:
Friends of Dory Homecoming: Monday, December 12, 2016, at 2:00 p.m. EST
All welcome. Bring your Dory Snorkel.
For a New Product:
Dory Snorkels are Now In Chartreuse and Neon Pink
For a Promotion:
Dory Fish Promoted to Regional Shark Liaison for the Coral Reef Society
For an Announcement:
Dory Snorkels Hiring Twelve Positions for Snorkel Testers
Open Interviews at Seaside Beach Marina, Wednesday, March 21 at 2 p.m.
Ideas for Attention-Getting Headlines and Taglines
You might spend more time crafting the few words of the headline and tagline than you do writing the rest of the press release.
That is because the headline and tagline are the two of the most important lines of the press release.
Employ the same eye-catching tactics the media uses to gain the attention of readers and viewers.
Alliterations, numbered lists, announcements, and pairing your press release with trending news are tried and true ways to get the editor’s attention.
Alliterations are a series of words that begin with consonants such as Pennsylvania Prioritizes Pickle Production, Barry’s Barbeque Benefit, or Seneca’s Sensational Sitcom Syndrome.
If you can craft a headline that uses alliteration and is relevant to your press release — go for it.
List articles are ubiquitous.
The next time you are at the grocery store, read the covers of the magazines at the checkout. You will notice that most consumer magazines have one thing in common: numbered list.
Whether it is REAL SIMPLE magazine with “12 Ways to Declutter” or Men’s Health magazine with “Six Super Savings,” numbered list work.
Once you start paying attention to headlines, you will see the numbered or list technique used again and again. From newspapers, magazines, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and even on the teasers for the nightly news.
Why? We all love the idea of being able to read a list of items to make changes in our life.
In today’s world of shorter attention spans and fast-paced information consumption, lists are easier to read. List articles appear simpler to absorb than long articles.
List press releases are of interest as long as the information and delivery style of the information is relevant to your topic.
- Three Ways to Avoid Deer Vehicle Accidents
- Seven Rollercoasters for Thrill Seekers
- Eight Hikes for Parents with Small Children
- Twelve Hidden Dangers in Your Home
Press releases are a way of announcing events, product/service releases, career advancements, and awards. Press releases that are announcement focused are typically time-sensitive. Don’t announce a promotion months after the actual promotion became effective.
Pairing with Trends
Watch the news, pay attention to trends, and make notes of local, regional, national, and international official and fun holidays.
For example, September 19 is International Talk Like a Pirate Day.
If you were a specialized cookie baker, you could do an entire themed week around this one holiday. If you were a laser tag gaming place, you could have a pirate themed event, offer a grand prize for the best-dressed pirate, a pirate poem contest where they walk the plank.
Think outside of the usual channels to get your church, community group, or business in front of the media.
What if your company is something a bit more serious such as employee recruitment? Research the various holidays and figure out which pair with your organization.
To spot trends, set Google Alerts for keywords relevant to your organization.
If you want to stay ahead of the curve, I recommend templating common press releases you would produce throughout the year.
For example, you host a marathon each year. You could create the following templates:
- Marathon Announcement and History
- Marathon Partners
- Marathon Open to Registrants and Sponsors
- Marathon Increased/Decreased in Runners
- Famous Runners in Marathon
- Marathon Donating Proceeds to Organization
- Marathon Champions Amazing People Helping or Participating in the Marathon
- Marathon Day Coming Up
- Marathon Results
When it comes time to write the press release you have already done a good deal of the heavy lifting.
You can save yourself a lot of time by templating common or repetitive press releases.
Redirect the time you have saved to serving the media by providing them with information and interviews with professional, friendly, and fast service. As well as creating a web page with additional information and photos for the media to use.
The “Not So Much” Section:
Keep rolling through the information. At this point, the press release is well enough to live on its own just by the headline, subheadline, and first paragraph. The “Not So Much” section is where you go into greater detail.
Dory Snorkels Hiring Twelve Positions for Snorkel Testers
Open Interviews at Seaside Beach Marina Wednesday, March 21 at 2 p.m.
Sydney, Australia – “We are looking for avid swimmers that can hold their breath for three minutes and have experience swimming with sharks,” said Ben Flounder, president of Dory Snorkels. Benefits include healthcare, paid maternity and paternity leave, and competitive salaries.
Interviewees are encouraged to arrive early for the open interviews hosted by SharkBait Recruitment. Dory Snorkels, a FISH 1000 company, prides itself on a diverse workforce including sharks, minnows, jellyfish, and sea turtles.
Notice in the above sample that the most important information is in the first 50-60 words. The headline, subheadline, and first paragraph are too crucial to waste on clichés and platitudes.
The “MEH” Section:
This information is helpful but not crucial. The business elevator speech or about us information falls into this category. You can include this after the main press release but refrain from using it in the body of the press release as it is a waste of valuable real estate.
Please make a note of it:
NOT IMPORTANT: Generic quotes from the boss. Platitudes. Clichés.
As I mentioned earlier, watching editors and reporters work has given me insights into why some press releases made it to the news budget meeting and others got tossed into the recycling bin.
When I asked the editors and reporters why they tossed the press releases their responses were:
- Jargon filled, company boilerplate, elevator speech.
- Self-aggrandizing. No useful information.
- Not enough information. I’ve no idea when or why this is No contact information.
- I shouldn’t have to write the press release for them.
- Too many errors and not written in the right format. If they don’t take the time to figure out how to talk to us, why should we cover their story?
An example of what not to do:
“We here at Dory Snorkels are excited about the new frontier of Dory Snorkels for fish,” said Darla Sherman, vice president of marketing for Dory Snorkels, manufacturer of Dory Snorkels manufactured in Sydney, Australia. “Dory Snorkels is the leading manufacturer of snorkels sold worldwide.”
((I nearly had an aneurysm writing that example. You’re welcome.))
“Do you want coverage or do you not?”
Words of Warning:
If you are working with higher-ups, it will be difficult to keep your press releases focused on just the attention-grabbing information. You might have to have a battle or two with upper management.
If you noticed in the sample:
Dory Snorkels Hiring Twelve Positions for Snorkel Testers
Open Interviews at Seaside Beach Marina Wednesday, March 21 at 2 p.m.
Sydney, Australia – “We are looking for avid swimmers that can hold their breath for three minutes and have experience swimming with sharks,” said Ben Flounder, president of Dory Snorkels. “Benefits include healthcare, paid maternity and paternity leave, and competitive salaries.”
Interviewees are encouraged to arrive early for the open interviews hosted by SharkBait Recruitment. Dory Snorkels, a FISH 1000 company, prides itself on a diverse workforce including sharks, minnows, jellyfish, and sea turtles.
Ben Flounder received center stage. You might have to do this as well in order to appease the upper management gods.
I’ve found the easiest way to deal with this is to simply ask, “Do you want coverage or do you not?”
The ### of – 30 – at the End of a Press Release
The ### or — 30 — denotes the close of the public portion of the press release. After this ending you can make the editor’s or reporter’s job a lot easier by including:
- Industry information with full URL links to statistics.
- Photos & Art Full URL links:
- At least one photo for the editor to use.
- Include photo credits and captions with images.
- All relevant brand logos.
- Do NOT have photos or logos available upon request. That only makes the reporter’s job harder. Make it easy for them to cover your story by having everything available online via Dropbox or web page for download.
- Relevant social media handles and hashtags (limit 2).
- Company bio (a short customized version of the About Us page usually will work fine but keep it under 100 words).
- Partners’ bio (a short customized version of the About Us page usually will work fine but keep it under 100 words).
If you are working with a partner, get their approval in writing (email is fine) for their portions of the press release before you send it to the media.
Unless you want their public relations team completely rewriting the press release, only send them the segments pertinent to their organization.
Sections might include quotes, comments about their organization, the bio, and any facts.
Checklist for a Good Press Release
Ask yourself, is my press release:
- Easy to quickly read?
- Is it clearly stating what it is about?
- Will the press know who is involved?
- Will the editor or reporter understand what it is about?
- Will the press know exactly where it is happening?
- Will the press know when it is happening?
- Will the press know why it is happening?
- Will the press know how it is happening?
- If it is an event, does it include the address?
- Is it easy for a reporter, editor, or influencer to cover my story?
Don’t expect the press to do your work for you.
Make it as easy as possible for them to cover your story.
By the time they finishing scanning your press release, the editor or reporter should be able to answer all of the above questions. If your press release doesn’t deliver that, then rewrite it until it does.
PRINT • PROOFREAD • EDIT • REPEAT
Please, for the love of chimichangas
Avoid simple mistakes by taking the time to edit.
Have someone else proofread your material or if possible let the press release sit for a day or two before editing it.
The mental break gives your brain the space it needs to see the errors instead of automatically correcting them in your mind and then not seeing any mistakes.
Your duty is to make the press release information easy to understand even if you are covering a complex topic.
To aid you in making your press release easy to for people to understand, activate the Flesch–Kincaid Readability level guide in Microsoft Word. The Flesch-Kincaid Readability program is an algorithm that reviews your text and rates it on a 100 scale. The closer you are to 100 percent, the easier your writing is for people to understand.
The reading ease score will appear when you are finish running a spelling and grammar check.
Aim for high percentage Flesch–Kincaid Reading Ease level. The higher the percentage relates to how easy it is for other people to understand what you have written. You might need take some time to tweak your press release to achieve the higher percentage, but it will be worth it when multiple media outlets cover your press release.
Invest in Your Ability to Communicate by Improving Your Writing.
Buy the following books:
- Associated Press Style Guide
- “The style of the Associated Press is the gold standard for news writing. WithThe AP Stylebook in hand, you can learn how to write and edit with the clarity and professionalism.
- Fully revised and updated, this new edition contains more than 3,000 A to Z entries—including more than 200 new ones—detailing the AP’s rules on grammar, spelling, punctuation, capitalization, abbreviation, and word and numeral usage.”
- Elements of Style
- “The classic style manual, now in a fourth edition. A new Foreword by Roger Angell reminds readers that the advice of Strunk & White is as valuable today as when it was first offered.
- This book’s unique tone, wit, and charm have conveyed the principles of English style to millions of readers. Use the fourth edition of “the little book” to make a big impact with writing.”
- OWL – Purdue Online Writing Lab
- “The Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University houses writing resources and instructional material, and provides these as a free service of the Writing Lab at Purdue. Students, members of the community, and users worldwide will find information to assist with many writing projects.”
Buy the app Grammarly AND use it.
“Grammarly is the world’s leading automated proofreader.
It checks for more than 250 types of spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors, enhances vocabulary usage, and suggests citations.”
DISTRIBUTING YOUR PRESS RELEASE
Sending Your Press Release to the Media
Now that you have a press release you need to get it in front of the media. Your press release can be sent directly to editors, reporters, and influencers or aggregate systems or both.
I prefer to work with a detailed list of reporters and editors rather than relying on an aggregate or news feed because there is no guarantee the person I want to see the press release will ever see it.
You can distribute your press release through a distributor, or you can build your list and send your press release via email.
If you Google press or news or media release distribution, you’ll discover there are lots of press release distribution sources available….for a price.
The downside is that the services and packages are varied enough in pricing structure and service that if you are new to the market, it may be difficult to figure out which package is the best option for you.
Some distributors send the press release to specific editors and reporters, and others deliver the press release to a news feed. You need to do due diligence to find out where your press release is going.
Here are some samples of distributors from a recent research:
- PRWeb: $99-$369 per release.
- PR Newswire: Starts at $195 annual membership & $795/release up to 400 words $205 for up to an additional 100 words.
- Cision: $2-6,000 per year depending on the depth of the package.
- Trendkite: Starts at $5,000 per year.
iReach: $129-399 per release.
Of course, each package has various limits and deciding what works best for you is something that requires research on your part.
If you choose to purchase distribution, here are a few items to consider:
- How is the press release distributed?
- Is it posted to a general feed?
- Is it posted to the distributor’s feed?
- Is it sent to a general email such as firstname.lastname@example.org?
- Is it sent to a particular editor or reporter?
- Can you include photos or is that extra?
- What is the quantity/size limit for images?
- How many links can you include?
- How much are links?
- Do you get analytics? If so, what is covered and for how long?
- Is the press release distributed to search engines?
- Is the press release circulated to aggregates? Which ones?
- Is the press release distributed to major news sites?
- Is the press release on an industry, local, or national feed?
- Is the press release distributed directly to reporters’ email?
- Where is the press release hosted a.k.a. the website?
- What is the turnaround time from press release submission to distribution?
- What is the word count limit?
Or, you could do it yourself…
Build Your Media List Options
Unlike distribution services, if you build out your media list then you have direct control over who receives your press release.
Building your list works well if you have carefully curated your media list to editors and reporters who cover your topic or region.
Media lists should include a variety of media outlets including magazines, newsletters, newspapers, online media, radio, television, bloggers, and influencers.
Purchase Media Lists
To get started you can buy a media list. Google to see if there is a directory for the states you need. Directories start at $100 for a one-year subscription.
The downside of directories is some won’t contain all of the media outlets, and others don’t include bloggers and influencers. Some you can download a csv file and then begin the arduous process of sorting media outlets for the ones that fit with your community group, church, or business.
Here is an example of one for media outlets in Indiana:
Media directories are great if you are covering a localized event. You must careful examine the list for only the media that would be interested in your press release.
State based directories include the media throughout the state; there will be multiple outlets that will have zero interest in your press release. Sending these media outlets your press release is bad form.
Building Your List
You can create your list of contacts by doing the legwork yourself or buying access to a media list aggregate. You can search for outlets, reporters, and influencers who cover your topic.
Only add reporters and editors if they specifically cover your topic area. For example, if your Seattle-based company makes beautiful tea sets, you wouldn’t add media that covers environmental issues unless you were donating a portion of all the sales of a particular tea set to an environmental group.
Likewise, if you have news that is region specific, you wouldn’t send the press release to media outlets that do not cover that area.
Three ways to build your media list are:
- Review all the consumer and trade magazines, newspapers, online magazines, blogger, influencers, that that cover your topic.
- Add their contact information only if they cover your topic.
- Review the mastheads of magazines and look for managing editors or associate editors. Their contact information won’t be readily available. You’ll need to do a bit of research to find it. Add their contact details only if they cover your topic.
- Review the media outlets that your readers read and add reporters that cover your topic.
- Add their contact information only if they cover your topic.
- Review newsletters of societies, associations, and organizations that cover your topic.
- Add their contact information only if they cover your topic.
Media List Worksheet:
Who is your audience? For example: parents of newborns, car owners, sports fans. ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
What media resources does your audience read or view? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Define the relevance of your press release to a specific topic or location?
What media covers that region? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Start Your Database
Use a spreadsheet program to maintain your database of media contacts. Use to these headers to manage the information:
- Media Name
- Type of media (print, radio, television, online)
- Range of media (local, topic related, trade, influencer, blogger, national)
- Dates of publication (weekly, monthly, quarterly)
- Lead time (how much time between when the media receives the information and can share the information)
- Website address
- Phone number
- Email address
Tip: Bloggers are a great way to reach people who are interested in the products or services that you are offering.
- Bloggers are often dismissed and overlooked by small businesses and agencies.
- Bloggers have extremely loyal followers often focused on a niche.
- Niches bloggers cover everything from self-improvement to welding.
- Local bloggers or niche bloggers might include your press release for free if it is a community service release.
- Bloggers are always looking for good content.
- NOT FREE
- Bloggers and influencers do not work for free, exposure, or experience.
- Reputable bloggers have a pricing scale dependent upon the number of followers/readers/page views they have, their reach, and based on which social media channels your products or services are promoted.
- Most will not entertain a commission based system:
- Instead, develop an affiliate based system.
Way Before the Interview
Before the media starts calling for interviews, create your comments.
You’ll want to prepare you comments immediately after writing your press release. The comments are bullet points. These bite-sized pieces of information are sound bites the media can use. Composed of only the information you want to convey.
Preparing for the Interview
Bullet points break down the information into small sound bites. Just like in your press release, lead with the most important information first when you are doing an interview.
To create your bullet points, take your subject and break it down into about 6-14 bullet point comments.
Combine your bullet points together for longer sound bites.
Keep in mind that for television interviews most published sound bites are less than 15 seconds, print, online, and radio interviews will typically be longer. Know your subject well and know the format of the media that is conducting the interview.
Keep what you say short and sweet. Don’t be that person who says, “We are so happy blah blah blah blah.” You are wasting valuable time. Remember this is when you share your primary take home message. Focus on what you want the audience to remember about your interview.
Create your sounds bites well.
Keep in mind that your interview will likely be watched by someone who is also helping their children with homework and making dinner.
You must convey the information in a memorable way. Keep to your Take Home Message.
I bet you would like a few examples right now. Here you go:
“Fizzy Pancakes opens new horizons. It is amazing what happens when you get out of your comfort zone and travel. We’ve had 12 students go on to become world renowned pancake chefs.”
“Spending money on travel is better than buying stuff. A Better Way to Serve, offer travelers adventures in community service instead of tchotchkes.”
“One in five families hasn’t taken a vacation in the last five years. Our goal is to change that.”
As you can see, you don’t want to promote in every quote. Your name, title, and business name will likely be noted in the story or on the title block.
You have a bit of freedom not to say your organization’s name in every sentence.
Building Your Bullet Points
On the next page, you’ll find a worksheet to help you develop your bullet points.
Worksheet Creating Your Bullet Points
Who is your audience? ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
What is the one thing you want them to remember from your interview? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
What is the one action you want them to take after hearing your words?
What is the one thing they need to know? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Hiking On a National News Segment
As spring peaked so did the interest in hiking. I had put out a few press releases based on the list article idea. Some of the titles included: Ten Terrific Trails for Tots, Top 5 Spring Wildflower Hikes, 6 Trails to Hike for Your Health.
With each piece, I included statistics as well as links to images for just the media and my availability for interviews.
Not much happened. A few of the press releases were covered entirely meaning media outlets used the press release as their content. The Cincinnati Enquirer interviewed me. Then I got a phone call from a national television show who had received a copy of my press release forwarded to them by a television editor who thought it would be a good local segment piece to tie in with the national trend.
I do believe that over time I developed a level of trust and had established myself as the expert on hiking. Granted I do know several people who work in the media but this editor and the segment editor I had never met before.
When the editor called to set-up the interview, I focused on what the editor needed to make a great piece for her audience. During the initial set-up call, I asked: “How much time do you think you’ll need for the piece? Is there anything, in particular, you are looking for?”
The day before the interview, I emailed over questions that the reporter might want to ask. I also sent detailed directions to where we were meeting. The day of, I reviewed my bullet points, dressed in hiking gear, arrived early, scouted the area, and waited.
We met at a local park near a trail head. I brought along my book 60 Hikes within 60 Miles Cincinnati, hiking boots, socks, and a water bottle to make a vignette for B-roll.
After greeting the reporter who was also the videographer, I carried her tripod and suggested some ideas for the shoot. She liked the idea of a ground level shot of me hiking by the camera lens, the vignette for b-roll, and one of the locations I’d scouted to do the interview with plenty of natural light but keeping the forest in the background of the shot.
We walked through the shots and then recorded them. At one point, I completely blanked on the name of my book – the one I was holding in my hands! I asked for a do-over.
She graciously let me have another opportunity.
The prep work allowed me to feel at ease even when I had a forgetful moment. The result was a fantastic local interest segment on hiking presented in an easy going conversational tone that ran during the national show.
Practice Your Bullet Points
Memorize your bullet points because as soon as the interview starts your nerves are going to soar and you’ll likely feel like puking or passing out.
It is this jolt of adrenaline that causes you to forget who you are, why you are there, and to try to “win” the interview.
That is why you absolutely must practice and memorize your bullet points, so you don’t have to think of them. Once you have them down it is more muscle memory which allows you the mental space to think.
Don’t freak-out if you don’t remember the bullet point verbatim. If you have worked on memorizing and practicing, you’ll cover the bases fine.
** If you have any legal problems, hire an attorney and a public relations crisis manager to craft your statements. **
Prepare a media kit that includes a list of questions for the reporter to ask you, your name and contact information, and any background information that will be helpful to them. The media kits do not have to be fancy. Just print the information on white paper and staple together.
Once you hand over the media kit, tell the reporter, “Here is a list of questions you might want to ask me. I also included additional background information and my contact information if you have any questions.”
Often, reporters or videographers get assignments and don’t have time to figure out who you are, what the story is about, or what to ask. A concise media kits helps the press quickly get up to speed and results in a better interview for their audience. Everyone wins.
Additionally, when they get back to editing, the media kit is likely what they will refer to when putting together the piece and fact checking.
The questions you give them to ask you does not mean that they are restricted to asking only those questions. Providing a list of potential questions is a chance for you to be a nice human and be helpful. Don’t try to manipulate the reporter by providing slanted questions.
The back of your media kit should always be a blank sheet of white paper. This serves as a backup white balance for the videographer as well as space for the reporter to make notes. White balance is the color balance on a camera. If it isn’t adjusted correctly, you’ll look ill or like you have a hangover.
Where to Conduct the Interview
It is crucial that you select and work with the media to have a reasonable location for the interview. And, like real estate the most important thing is
Not Your Office, Not Your Office, Not Your Office
Work with the editor or reporter on the location for the interview but don’t do the interview in your office – you can do it at your office just not in your office.
You’ll be too comfortable there and forget you are being interviewed.
That’s precisely when the wheels start falling off the bus.
If you want the interview, be willing to travel. Meet the reporter where it is convenient for them.
Pseudo Case Study
Let’s say I’m a lifestyle blogger who dedicates a lot of time to traveling and experiencing life. My goal is to enthuse other people to get out and enjoy their lives, to go on adventures, meet new people, experience new places, and taste new drinks and foods.
I’ve written a press release and get a call from the television news show editor. She wants to do an interview with me. First, she is going to feel me out a little to make sure I’m not a flake, and she is going to look at my website and do a bit of investigation to see if I am who I say I am.
In the process of the call, she is going to ask, “Can you do an interview today at 3?”
“Yes. Where would you like to do the interview that’s best for you? I could come to the studio or meet your team in the field. The garden at Beaumont Park is a beautiful and we could do the interview on the Massive Four Story Slide. Would that work for you?
At this point, she is going to tell you to come into the studio, accept your offer, or counteroffer. She is not out to trip you up. She is trying to find a location that works for you as well as her team. While you have her on the phone, ask for the reporter’s contact information so you can coordinate the meeting in the field. Sometimes the reporter won’t have your contact information.
For example, if I was a person who made floral arrangements for weddings, I might do the interview in my workspace or while I was setting up a wedding. But, I would not do the interview at my desk. If I were a baker, I’d do the interview in my pristine clean kitchen. For both scenarios, I would offer to create something so they can shoot b-roll. But more on that later.
Doing an interview is a challenging and exhilarating experience. This section covers video, radio, and print interviews.
Physically Doing the Interview
Doing an interview is fun. Keep a positive attitude and be helpful. Even if you get an aggressive reporter, keep a positive attitude, breathe, smile, and provide truthful and useful information.
The Day of the Interview
What to Wear:
Dress nicely. Business casual is good unless you need to dress in a particular way such as your organization requires a uniform.
Let’s use the baker example again; you might want to wear an apron with your company logo on it and do the interview in your incredibly clean kitchen surrounded by your fresh baked goods.
Don’t wear shiny fabrics or lots of patterns.
Solid jewel tones work well.
If you are a woman, never wear a sweater. EVER! The lights from the camera will reflect off the material of your bra making it crystal clear even through your sweater.
Food and Drink:
Only drink water.
Do not drink alcohol – Must I say why?
Do not drink carbonated beverages. Why? A carbonated beverage in the stomach of a nervous person means there will be burping. You will burp. Lots of burping. There is just no helping it or hiding it.
Do not drink caffeinated beverages. You are going to be excited enough doing the interview. Add in caffeine, and you will be twitchy on camera which looks like you are shifty and trying to hide something.
30 Minutes Before the Interview:
Prepare your voice. You don’t want to have your voice crack from stress or to simply not be able to say the words.
To avoid this embarrassment:
- Hum the Happy Birthday song to drop your voice down an octave and warm up. Humming helps you sound better as well as not having that dreaded crack in your voice causing you to sound like a squeaky mouse.
- To get your lips and tongue working together repeat one or all the phrases. Enunciate each syllable clearly:
- Red Leather Blue Leather
- Watermelon Cantaloupe
- The tip of the tongue the teeth the lips
Go over your bullet points out loud but where no one is watching you.
If you are waiting to do the interview and don’t want anyone to know you are running through your bullet points, stay in your vehicle, pick-up your phone, and act like you are taking a call. No one will be the wiser unless your window is down or you accidentally call someone.
Meeting the Reporter and Videographer
In addition to the media kit you give the reporter, give the videographer your card.
Offer to carry the videographer’s tripod. Videographers lug around a lot of heavy gear. Be a nice human and offer to help.
Never treat the videographer poorly.
Videographers are the ones who control the white balance and framing of the interview. They are also likely the person who will be editing the segment.
If you want to look like a hungover jackass then, by all means, act like a tool to a videographer or reporter.
Right Before the Interview
Knowing your bullet points allows you to answer the reporter’s questions confidently as well as provides you with enough mental space to handle the unexpected.
Relax before doing the interview by breathing. Breathe through your nose and deep into your lungs for the count of three and then slowly let your breath out through your mouth.
Just keep breathing in and out slowly as this action tells your body this is not a fight or flight situation. Your relaxed deep breathing is assuring your lizard brain to stop freaking out. No grizzly bear is trying to eat you.
Still have some pent-up energy, great you’ll need that to show your enthusiasm during the interview.
What to Do with Your Body
Stand when doing an interview. Don’t rock on your feet.
Watch Amy Cuddy’s TEDTalk for insights on your nonverbal body language.
Never sit in an office chair to do an interview. Within seconds you’ll start rocking like an 80s hairband. (You’ll start rocking without even realizing it.)
When asked a question, it is okay to take a second to answer it.
Don’t repeat the question back to the reporter.
Take off your sunglasses. Sunglasses say to the world, “I’m shifty. Nothing to see here folks. Move along. Move along.” If you want to relay honesty, take your sunglasses off.
During the interview, when you are done answering the question stop.
The silence that ensues is going to feel tremendously awkward.
The camera or microphone is in your face, the reporter is looking at you like you didn’t answer the question enough, and you are going to feel this enormous pressure to fill the void.
If you continue to speak, you will say something that you didn’t want to say.
And, of course, that will be the one segment from the entire interview that makes it onto the nightly news.
Sunlight – Your Best Friend and Nemesis
Don’t stare into the sun. Seems obvious but if you are interviewing outside, the videographer will want you facing the sun. The reason is simple; natural light looks great on camera.
However, depending on the time of day this can be painful because of the angle of the sun. If you are being interview in the morning or late afternoon you could find yourself squinting into the sun. Your eyes start watering which causes your nose to start running. And, you’ll look like a hot mess.
Speak up and ask to move a bit, so you aren’t blinded.
If the light still blinds you, then use this trick. Close your eyes to get used to the brightness without going blind.
When the interview starts look at the reporter and answer the question. You can take a few breaks if the sun is still in your eyes.
The reporter and videographer understand, but they are also trying to make sure you look good, and the best way to do that is with natural light.
What to Do With Your Hands During an Video Interview
If you are like me and talk with your hands, try not to be so dramatic.
If you aren’t using your hands DO NOT:
- Hold your hands with your fingertips together in front of your body and pointing straight down. That is called the crotch shot. It says “Here is my crotch. See my crotch \/ I framed it.”
- Hold your hands together fingers up like you are praying. This pose is called steepling and the message it sends is, “I’m better than you! Mere mortal!”
- Never cross your arms. You may as well shout, “I hate this! Get me out of here!”
- Never put your hands in your pockets. You might as well shrug, “Awe shucks. I don’t know.”
- Never put your hands on your hips during the interview, that relays, “Hey look at me! I think I’m Superman! Or a mad parent.” (You can put your hands on your hips before the interview. See Amy Cuddy’s TEDTalk)
- Do not touch your face around your mouth. You might as well scream, “I’M A LYING ”
- Never groom yourself during an interview. No touching your hair, no lint-picking, no touching the clothes to straighten imaginary wrinkles. Those are all comforting moves that scream you are terrified and lack confidence.
Being in Front of a Camera
Sometimes the videographer and the reporter are the same person.
In that case, they are often standing behind the camera. If you look at the reporter behind the camera, it is going to appear to the viewer as if you are staring directly into the camera.
It is unusual for the media to want you to look directly into the camera and it is a little unnerving to speak directly into the wide lens.
Ask the reporter where they would like for you to look.
If it is off to the side of the camera, this is going to feel odd for you because often you are talking to open space. No one standing there looking back at you which is hard because we rely on visual cues to help us communicate.
Focus on something about eye level. Pretend you are talking directly to a person in front of you. When you finish answering keep looking at that spot like it is a real person and smile until the videographer/reporter either asks another question or tells you they have what they need.
Don’t worry if you forget and turn to the reporter or look directly into the camera, readjust and continue the interview even if it is live. Odds are most people won’t register the mistake unless you point it out to them.
First, breathe. Second, continue breathing.
You will survive this, and it won’t be nearly as bad as that voice in your head says it will be.
The reporter will ask you a few standard questions to loosen you up. They will start the interview by asking for your name and for you to spell it out as well as your title and business name if applicable. Editing uses this information to figure out what the segment is about so speak clearly.
There will likely be a few softball a.k.a. easy questions to warm you up and help you get over the initial burst of nerves.
After this is when both the bullet points you have memorized and the questions you have provided them typically converge.
Realize the moment you meet with the reporter – you are on the record. There is no off the record. If you don’t want it on the news, don’t say it.
“If you don’t want it on the news, don’t say it.”
The editor of the video often isn’t who shot the video. They are always under a time crunch. Make it easier for everyone and only say what you want on the evening news, in the newspaper, magazine, or online.
If you make a mistake on live television or radio, quickly correct it and keep going. If the interview is being recorded and you mess up immediately stop and request a do-over. I’ve never been told no when asking for a mulligan.
Don’t worry about anything else going on around you. Focus on the interview. It is easy to get distracted but you have the media’s attention for only a short time so stay focused.
- “No Comment!” Instead say, “I can’t discuss that at this moment,” or “I don’t know,” whichever is applicable.
- “Honestly,” “In all honesty,” or “To be honest,” you might as well declare “The next sentence is going to be a big fat lie.”
B-roll is the footage used while the anchors or reporter is talking (voice-over) and is also used for teasers.
You know your subject matter better than anyone. Don’t hesitate to suggest b-roll shots that relate to your interview.
I’ve loaded shotguns, fired shotguns, hiked trails, put on hunting gear, laced up books, looked at maps, pointed over yonder as well as made little vignettes of the topic such as my hiking boots, socks, water bottle, binoculars, and book. I’ve also found waterfalls and great views to be used as b-roll.
Come up with four or five ideas that might work for their b-roll and then suggest the options.
When doing radio interviews, be aware of what you are doing around the microphone. If you are in studio, try not to touch the table the microphones are attached too.
While directional microphones are great, sometimes even the slightest sounds (like you absentmindedly drumming your fingers) can be picked up.
Adjust the microphone, so your breath is not hitting it straight on. Angled about 33-45 degrees to the side will take care of it. When you are done answering a question, lean back a little, so you aren’t right on top of the microphone because it will pick-up the sound of you breathing.
We have all heard that an interview where it sounded like Darth Vader with a nose whistle.
Keep a Positive Attitude
Think of the interview as a partnership. You are providing information for their audience. They are providing you with the stage.
Don’t go into an interview with a chip on your shoulder and pick a fight with the media.
You won’t win.
Once the interview is over, thank them and ask what time slot it will be on so you can help promote the piece on your platforms. Assist them in gathering any gear and thank them again for their time.
Ask if they are using a hashtag and what it will be if it isn’t the one you gave them so you can use their hashtag as well.
Now do just that, start promoting the upcoming interview on all your platforms. Be sure to include any tags that they use as well.
After the interview, send a thank-you note to the news editor, reporter, and videographer. It is an old-fashioned touch that gets noticed.
I prefer it because I work with people, not corporations. The editors, reporters, and videographers are rarely sincerely thanked. I want to thank them and tell them I appreciate them and their work.
It is your choice, but a thank you note has never hurt anyone.
Listed as the Expert
By providing the media with relevant press releases, over time will establish you as an expert in your field.
You can also provide the media with your contact information as an expert in certain areas.
Another way to become an expert is to sign-up for Help A Reporter Out (HARO). This service is for journalists to find experts to interview.
You can register as an expert with other press release services as appropriate to your subject area.
Media List Starter Kit
Compiling a media distribution list is a time-consuming pursuit.
The cost of just one press release distribution is often too expensive for most small businesses, entrepreneurs, churches, or community groups.
The Media List Starter Kit is right for you if:
- You just want to send out your press releases
- You find digging through directories less than thrilling
- You simply don’t have the time to spend weeks creating your distribution list
- Your budget doesn’t allow for $500 PER press release for distribution
Now here is a chance to jumpstart your media relations with Media List Starter Pack for only $595. You get:
Media list customized to your area or topic with up to 1,000 media outlets
Order now via: LINK
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