Step 1: Grab attention with a good headline
A strong headline attracts journalists seeking good stories. It should be engaging and accurate. Put the headline in the email subject line when you email the pitch.
Step 2: Get right to the point in the first paragraph
Reporters will read the first sentence and scan the rest. The first paragraph must answer who, what, where, why, when. The other paragraphs are for supporting information. Twitter is a good challenge; sum up your story in 140 characters.
Step 3: Include hard numbers
Pack your press release with hard numbers. Quantify your argument and it will become much more compelling to a journalist.
Step 4: Make it grammatically flawless
Proofread your press release. Even a single mistake can dissuade a reporter from taking you seriously. Plus they will copy and paste your work, so if you make it easy for them, they will like you for it.
Step 5: Include quotes
Quotes are crucial. It provides the human element to the press release, as well as being a source of information in its own right. Journalists find it hard to find people; here is where you are strongest.
Step 6: Include your contact information.
Include an email address and phone number on the release. Put it in more than one place because journalists will not look for it it.
Step 7: One page is best and two is the maximum.
Short, sweet, and avoid jargon.
Step 8: Pictures
Let them know in the pitch what images are available, if you can supply them, or when they can come and take the images/do the filming/interviews.
Dos and don’ts
- Don’t send press releases as attachments. Keep the copy in the body of your email.
- Don’t clog up inboxes with images and massive files. Send images on request.
- Do summarise the whole press release in your email.
- Do put contact details in several places and bold important information
- Do put in all the details you can; full names, ages, job titles and location.
- Do know the sign off process. All quotes must be cleared.
- Do have people ready to speak to journalists.
- Don’t make stuff up. Journalists are human. If you don’t know the answer tell them you don’t know and give them a call back.
- Do ask journalists for the questions in advance so you can prepare
- Do call journalists the day after you sent the release. Many will say they didn’t receive it. They did and deleted it with a hundred others. Go positive; “I’ve got a story that affects your readers and I think you’ll be interested”.
- Do thank journalists who cover your story. Give them follow up information and they might do a follow up story.
- Do send pictures and resend the release to journalists who didn’t show.