By Janet Udogu
A performer without an audience is regrettably in a rehearsal. A well-written press release that ends up in an editor’s trash can is definitely a waste of useful resources. Except if you are trying to leave an indelible impression of your unrivaled penmanship, or your target audience is the media, you would work really hard to get your press release the maximum amount of distribution it so deserves.
Most times when companies have attained certain milestones worthy of mention, they write press releases and hurriedly offload them to journalists. Then, they keep their fingers crossed and hope the releases get to their target audience. Are the press releases painstakingly written? No doubt. But would they be effectively distributed? Well, that is a different story.
Writing a press release is really only half the battle, getting it out to the right audience is the main deal. So, putting out your message in the public domain is as important as writing it well.
Simply publishing press releases on websites and blogs or sharing them with followers and subscribers through social media and email does not guarantee that it gets the maximum amount of media exposure. After communicating effectively in the press release, what next? Roll up your sleeves and let us get down to the brass tacks:
Do the work for journalists
Journalists are very busy people and will always have tight deadlines to meet. So, any aspect of your press release which requires them to do extra work such as fixing mistakes or doing additional research lessens the story's appeal to them. The whole essence of the press release is to make journalists’ work easier. If you can provide stories which are basically ready for publication, you save journalists huge stress and you automatically have your story published.
Focus on choice journalists
Sometimes less is more, particularly when you are very strategic and guided by knowledge. It is a waste of resources - human, economic and otherwise to pitch a release to every journalist in your contact list. If you must achieve maximum coverage and distribution of your release, you have to focus on a few journalists who specifically cover your industry and company.
Know your media and identify your target market
A follow up to knowing journalists to pitch your press release to, is to know your media. Read your local papers to know what type of stories they report. If a particular publication does not necessarily reach your product market, there is no reason to communicate your news.
Also, send your stories to publications that are seen by your target market. Some news items do not matter to some readership. A marketing communications seminar for instance, is of no use to religious publications.
Make the Story Newsworthy
Creating a newsworthy angle to your press releases increases the probability of it getting published. Editors hate promotions. Usually, anything with a time or date associated with it is considered news. Examples of news releases include national issues or campaigns, anniversaries, training announcements and so on.
Turn in any press release related to time-sensitive events early enough so that the editor can plan accordingly. Planning a publication and laying out a publication takes more time than overnight. Even though you see yesterday's events communicated in today's newspaper, it does not mean that there was a happenstance layout with no prior planning done. It is in the place of editors and copy editors to break stories, announce events and report general public relations news. Respect the fact that there is a degree of planning involved.
Don’t forget to follow up
Normally, a journalist who is interested in your story would get back to you in a day or two but when you do not hear from him follow up via phone or email. Do not get angry or discouraged. There could be other reasons to it. For instance, a bigger news story might have squeezed it out, they may have just run a similar story, they may have also missed it in the course of production and so on. Meanwhile, if you have chased a few times and you are not getting results, try to find out why or offer it elsewhere. The journalist may not be interested. It is also very necessary to know the right time to ring journalists. Try not to ring close to deadlines as they may not have time to chat. Journalists on daily papers are usually very busy in the late afternoons. So, it is best to ring them mid-morning.
Avoid larger than life expectation
Be very honest and realistic in your expectation. Building a media profile takes years of persistence, consistency and hard work. So, do not expect to get a wide press coverage when you have not worked for it. It is only a matter of time if you are determined. And journalists will not afford to ignore your press releases and pitches.