As a former reporter, I saw a myriad of press releases each day. Many served to clutter my inbox, but others piqued my interest.
Straight to the Point
For me to open an email, the press release needed a good subject line. A good subject line gives the news and relevant information in a concise manner. The subject line is the hook.
But opening the release didn’t always mean I would publish it or follow up for a story. We all have limited time in the day, so I wanted to see the most important information in the first few paragraphs. This includes the 5 W’s – who, what, when, where and why.
If I had to search for that information, I usually deleted the release and went on to the next email. The news, and the reason I would write a story, should come first. I could find out the supporting details later.
If I received 20 press releases per day, chances are I deleted at least 10 or more of them. The information simply didn’t interest me or it wasn’t relevant to my beat, my audience or my coverage area.
This was more common with mass press releases, rather than those targeted specifically for my paper or the general region.
For public relations specialists, research can pay dividends. I received emails where people mentioned past stories of mine, which is why they were sending me the release. This made the press release important to me because it fell under one of my beats.
If they didn’t mention my stories, the sender would tell me how the press release tied in to my coverage area. Our readers cared about stories that focused on where they lived, and if the release possessed that quality, I was more than willing to read it and listen to what the sender had to say.
More Than an Email
Press releases are typically sent to long lists of media outlets and reporters, which can limit the personal contact between the two parties.
If something caught my attention, I’d make sure to follow up with the contact listed on the release. But on occasion, the sender would reach out either before or after the release was sent. This action – for me – increased the chances that I would run the release as is or build it out into a longer story.
This worked for one main reason: It added a personal touch.
A phone call showed me that the media relations director (or similar employee) cared about getting the release in our publication. An email can be sent in seconds, but a phone call – depending on where it goes – can take a considerable amount of time. They were willing to give me their time, so I was more willing to listen and give them mine.
A Helping Hand
With some press releases, I would run them as is, save for a few grammatical and style changes. But with others, I wrote a longer story which – the majority of the time – required more than just the release.
The ease of this process depended on one main thing: how helpful and responsive the company or organization’s communications director was to me. There were times where I would call and call, but did not receive a response, or at least not a prompt one.
I understood that people were busy, but I appreciated those who took the time to answer calls and questions, and respond to emails. I would tell them my deadline and for the most part, they helped me finish my story on time.
What We Do
At Sinclair, we use press releases for our clients as a means to an end. The release is part of the larger process of telling that client’s story, and telling it well.
For some media outlets, an email is enough. But for others with broader reach, we constantly call reporters and work the release, not just to get it published, but to ensure a longer story.
We cultivate relationships with these reporters, helping them where needed to make sure our client’s story is told. Our team has perfected this art – resulting in beneficial relationships and positive results for our clients.
The release is the hook. Once we get their attention, we can speak with reporters directly and work on a story, or even a series of stories. We plant the seed with a press release and grow the story from there.
Placing a story in the media could be a vital turning point for a campaign. The release can spur conversation, inching one step closer to your overall goal.