Good coverage requires a good press release

Stacy CornayCommunication concepts

I landed on a new mailing list. So what, you ask? Aren’t we all added to new lists every day? This, however, is a specific list of journalists and media outlets. It is used by PR professionals and communicators to reach different media. But, I am not a journalist. I’ve worked with hundreds, maybe thousands over the years, though. The catch is, now I get press releases from all over the US, and even overseas. They all feature their stories and encourage me to cover their story, interview their expert, promote their podcast, sponsor their event.

For those who may not know, to “pitch” something to the media means to reach out to them with your news or topic and attempt to “sell” them why it might interest them. Dozens of these types of emails now arrive in my mailbox every week. Not as many as journalists. But, enough to make me think about what it is on their side when communicators try to encourage them to cover their news, event, subject or expert. What I have concluded is that it is a mess.

Whether you are a beginner or a more seasoned professional, media relations and preparing press releases is not always an easy task. Organizing your story in a way that engages your readers, while being accessible to journalists and optimized, takes a lot of practice.

Let’s take a look at the fundamentals. If you want to work with the media, it is wise to first think about which media(s) might be appropriate. There are thousands of different platforms and ways to reach your audience. Many are going to be helpful in getting the word out. Many will not.

Understanding this and taking the time to research what works best for your specific goals is a good place to start. Next, determine who is the best contact. General press releases, sent to everyone on a list, are not effective and can hurt your brand. It also indicates that you are not doing your homework.

For example, if you’re promoting a special organic dog food diet (one of the releases I received), it’s a good idea to make sure the people you’re contacting are journalists or contacts in media that might be interested in a dog food story. I’ve received presentations on unique travel destinations, organic ways to lose weight, new ways to do the bookkeeping, effective ways to talk to your kids, unconventional ways to deal with unruly co-workers, and much more besides. One of the releases I received listed all the times a particular speaker had been booked for the Oprah Winfrey show. They were sure, that on this basis, that I would book them. It sounded rather interesting, but I’m not booking speakers.

To work effectively with the media, you need to understand who and what they are and why they might be interested in what you want to present to them. Who are their readers, listeners or viewers? Did they cover the type of subject you are working on? Is there a connection with a current event and your subject? Is there a local angle? To be clear. Show how your topic is relevant. Start with a solid lead – don’t force people to research your point of view. Be brief. Remember that your version competes with hundreds, if not thousands, of others.

My most successful efforts with the media start with the fundamentals. Lead with a strong message. Pay attention to your topic and titles. Form relationships. Never stop researching. Don’t forget to say thank you when you get a good result. Always be respectful.

Remember, you want to be noticed, but not for the bad stuff.

Stacy Cornay is the owner of Communication Concepts Public Relations & Advertising. She can be reached at 303-651-6612; scornay@comm-concepts.com; www.comm-concepts.com; Facebook.com/Communications Concepts; Twitter @CommConceptsPR; or LinkedIn.

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