If you have a particular message you want to send out, raise awareness of your business, cause or organisation, then a press release is a great way to get some free publicity or generate some interest.
If you’ve no idea how modern media works, then you could be forgiven for thinking that all the content in newspapers and on websites is the result of someone, wearing a grainy mac and hat, making lots of secretive ‘enquiries’.
In some cases it is – but in most of the others it’s because of press releases. Newspapers, magazines and websites get hundreds if not thousands of press releases every day. Making yours stand out from the crowd and being featured isn’t easy.
Emma Baird, press and PR manager at the Princess Royal Trust for Carers Scotland, explains the thinking behind crafting a good one and what to consider when trying to drum up interest…
Your painstakingly crafted press release – each word mulled over, every fact double and triple checked. Your quotes short and sharp and the agonising procedure of sign-off by your boss complete. Watch out world – here comes my press release. I’m going to send it out and then wait for the wall-to-wall coverage which is sure to come… If only!
Between pressing ‘send’ and your news reaching the inboxes of journalists, bloggers and others lie hundreds of unread, uninteresting, unwanted and disregarded press releases. There are no guarantees in the world of public relations (PR), so how can you minimise the chances of your release sinking to the bottom of the ‘unwanted’ pile when you send it to a newspaper, website or trade organisation?
Don’t be afraid to ask: ‘What’s the point?'
When someone asks you to write a press release, you need to know what they hope to achieve from it. If you have a good understanding of why you’re doing it and what you want the reader to do as a result of reading it, then you’re more likely to write something interesting.
If you’ve been pondering too long over the initiative you’re charged with publicising, and trying to think of an ‘angle’, it’s okay to quit. If that happens, try and speak to someone working at your target media source and ask what would make them chomp at the bit to get their hands on your story. They might advise on what sort of an angle will make your story interesting to readers. Without the angle, you can be certain there will be no interest from the newspaper or website to publish your story.
What makes a good angle? Everyone loves statistics…
In the summer, we held our annual Scottish Young Carers Festival. Several months beforehand, we commissioned Ipsos MORI to research young carers, comparing how they spend their leisure time with a nationally representative survey of Scottish young people. Guess what? Young Carers have less free time and less time to spend with their friends – a great ‘angle’ for the papers. We had good facts and figures to use in the press release. The Press Association put it out via their newswire service. And hey presto! – blanket coverage.
Even if you can’t afford formal research, you can try using Survey Monkey or simply include some stats on the number of people using your service, number of calls to helplines or the number of red lipsticks sold on a Tuesday compared to a Saturday, for example.
Include quotes from attributable, reputable sources
Short, snappy, strong opinions get shared and used. Bland, repetitive statements which use lots of jargon or the current governmental buzzwords do not.
It’s good to talk
It’s easy to ignore emails, so carefully timed phone calls (scheduled for when it isn’t a newsroom’s peak time) asking if your press release has been received and if it is of interest may get merely a polite response. On the other hand, the call may stir up further interest or act as a reminder of your release’s importance.
Sending press releases out through media monitoring systems, rather than your own work email system, means they are less likely to be caught up in spam filters. And a catchy subject line works well too – New charity finds many unpaid carers battle for years without help – for example, rather than a staid announcement that there’s a new organisation in town.
Finally, if all else fails, promote it yourself
Get your press release online and share it through social media, through your own email networks and in your newsletters. Journalists? Nice lot as they are, aren’t always strictly necessary for spreading your message.
Emma Baird is press and PR manager for The Princess Royal Trust for Carers in Scotland (part of Carers Trust). She also blogs at http://highheelsandpinkglitter.wordpress.com