You’ve spent months working on a big development, project or product launch. It’s consumed you. Excitement levels are rising and you want to tell the world. You send your carefully drafted press release, and then… ta da… Nothing! Why? This post explores the four key reasons your story didn’t get published and how to avoid that disappointment happening again.
1. No News is Bad News
Is there news value in your story, and why should anybody care? If what you have to say isn’t unusual, surprising or innovative, bin your press release and start again. By definition, news is new information, so provide something journalists haven’t heard before. Don’t focus on why your story is important to your company; focus instead on why this news matters to the business world and your existing and potential customers. Lastly, don’t sit on an announcement – stale news is not competitive, so ensure your internal PR approval process is short.
2. You Didn’t Research Your Audience
You’re selling a story. Would you go into a sales pitch without finding out who you’re meeting and the issues affecting them? It’s unlikely. Get to know the publications you’re targeting: look out for common themes and monitor issues they cover. Note regular features and columns and find out what articles are planned. If you’re targeting local press, have a local story.
Find out about the journalists you’re approaching: follow them on LinkedIn or Twitter, learn about their backgrounds and read their recent articles to understand their areas of interest. Avoid being generic by tailoring press releases and your covering e-mail to the recipient. Show you’ve really thought about where your story could fit into their publication.
Allow plenty of lead time: if you have a big story, give the journalist time to digest the news and, if necessary, put an embargo on your story. Publications have different lead times: for example, if you want to get into a glossy lifestyle magazine, their deadlines fall as early as three-to-six months ahead of publication, so plan carefully. If you want media coverage at a trade show or event, be aware that 60% of the ‘show daily’ magazines’ content may be written before the event. Start talking to show daily news editors as much as six weeks before the event, or risk seeing the available space allocated to other exhibitors.
Journalists are busy people who have to sift through a lot of content, so be sensitive to their agendas and to competing stories – seek to make journalists’ lives easier and, for example, don’t call up about an unrelated press release on Budget Day.
3. Your Angle Wasn’t Strong
When you begin, firstly note down the ‘who, what, where, when and why?’ of your story. Can you answer all these questions quickly and are the answers compelling enough to make people read past the headline? Whatever your story, focus first on the benefits of your news for other people, not on the features of your product or service (of which you may be rightly proud).
Put yourself in the reader’s shoes: highlight primary research, statistics or credible insight that resonates; identify a human interest angle; and, if at all possible, support your point with vivid examples or a case study. For example, new appointments, premises, clients or services are all great as PR material, provided you can show how the news will make a difference to the reader.
4. Your Writing Lets You Down
If you’re providing copy you want journalists to publish, make sure you write concisely and avoid jargon and acronyms. Check spelling, accuracy, references, punctuation. Can you understand the story from the first paragraph? If not, go back to the keyboard. Further information can be delivered later, but keep your opening paragraph really tight. Finally, ensure your text is proofread – a fresh set of eyes is invaluable.