One of the easiest and most effective ways to share exciting news about your company is by distributing press releases to journalists. However, journalists receive hundreds of pitches everyday from different companies who want to make it into their publications, so you have to make sure that you’re applying some best practices to catch their attention.
To help you with ideas on how to creatively pitch to the media, we asked top PR professionals to share their favorite press release distribution tips with us.
Here are the top 30 press release distribution tips from the pros:
Marc Prosser, Co-Founder, Fit Small Business
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2. Know where to find journalists’ contact information.
Nora Leary, Co-founder, Head of Marketing & Business Development, Launchway Media
If you’ve identified the publication and the section you want to pitch your story to, and are just missing the correct journalist contact information, make sure you know where to find it. To begin with, you can use a limited free version of Pressfarm, Anewstip or Muck Rack to begin your media list. Each allows you to look up email addresses and phone numbers for a few free contacts before asking for a fee.
3. Don’t email blast your press release.
Hannah Holden, Director, Olu & Company
I’ve seen many competent business people use a tactic for distributing their releases that actually makes it less likely for them to get coverage: email blast.
Small business owners mistakenly believe that sending their press release to the greatest number of people possible—journalists and non-journalists alike—is the best way to increase the likelihood that they will get “picked up” by the media.
To be more effective, small business owners should try sending their press releases to a few dozen journalists who have recently covered similar stories in their local paper or in a trade magazine. They should send the release at least a few weeks in advance of whatever is described in the release (for instance, a new product, service or an event) actually happens.
4. Build long term relationships with journalists.
Aaron Norris, MBA, APR, Vice President, The Norris Group
Get serious about building relationships with journalists and influencers in your industry. In the real estate industry, for example, Twitter is not mainstream. However, we leverage Twitter for sourcing news for our blog and relationship building with government agencies, journalists, and writers. I put contacts in lists, include their stories in our blog posts, retweet their work, and I also capture their contact information and connect with them on other social platforms. When I do have something important to reach out about with these contacts, the goal is for them to see my email and say: “Oh, I know this guy” and have that also have a positive undertone. This is a longtail, relationship building strategy, one that your competitors are unlikely to follow.
5. Think small for big results.
Melanie Downey, Brand Innovator and PR Expert
Everyone wants to be in the national news, but don’t discount smaller, local, even weekly newspapers. Why? You already have one of the main things they look for in stories: a local angle. There’s also less PR competition, which makes it easier to pitch the reporter (as long as you have a great story!) You have a greater chance of a bigger story, and of the journalist including a photo (which makes it easier to catch the eyes of readers).
Plus, larger media outlets often look to the smaller ones for story ideas. One story in a small newspaper could turn into a segment on national television.
6. Send under embargo to the core news outlets first.
Derek Handova, freelance PR/writer/content marketer
An old school technique I use for getting out press releases is to email the press release the day before under embargo to the core news outlets that cover my client company’s industry. The reason I do this is that it gives the outlets the option of running a story based on the press release at the same time it’s on the wire. News outlets don’t want to look like they are being scooped—even by a company’s own press release, plus I achieve much more impact with the multiple, simultaneous hits.
7. Get right to the point.
Jonathan Long, Yes Magazine
When was the last time you read a press release that blew your socks off? I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess your answer: “not in a very long time, if ever.”
Most press releases are boring fluff composed of a few company statistics mixed in with equally boring quotes. If you craft your pitch to sound like a press release, don’t expect a response. A short pitch packed with details that gets right to the point wins every time.
8. Write an Ebook, and put out a press release
Jennifer Vanderslice, Owner/Publicist, MoonGlow PR
My greatest press tip to small business owners would be to write a book! It doesn’t have to be a tome or very long. Write about what you know and about your business. Write a book about the Top 10/25/50 questions you get asked about your industry and publish it as an ebook on Amazon. Put out a press release announcing your new book, and advertise it on your website. It will give your business more credibility and confirm to people that you are the expert in your field!
9. Don’t forget to use spell check!
Kristine Tanzillo, President, Dux Public Relations
Distribution is important, but having a real news story and a well written release is even more important. Your release shouldn’t be a sales pitch, and it should be free of spelling and grammar mistakes. If it is poorly written and lacks news value, it won’t matter who you send it to because it will go straight to the trash bin.
10. Don’t start off with “To Whom It May Concern.”
Meredith Liepelt, Rich Life Marketing
Be personal. At the very least, customize your email with a specific person’s name instead of mass mailing a press release to several people using To Whom It May Concern. Once you have created your media list, look them up on social media or Google them to see what they have written lately. If you show how your press release is relevant to, or maybe of interest to them due to their previous story, they are more likely to cover you.
Another idea is to give them a suggestion on where your news may fit in their publication. For example, you suggest that your press release may be a good for the X section. These tips demonstrate that you know something about the media outlet and aren’t just spamming them with your press release.
11. Make the journalist’s job easier.
James Nuttall, Content and Outreach Specialist, Cuuver
Do as much of the work for the journalist as you possibly can. Journalists receive, literally, hundreds of emails and story pitches every single day – often, you’re lucky if they even read your email. For this reason, you need to make it as easy for them to digest your story as possible. Give your email an eye-catching title to grab their attention and provide a brief synopsis of the story and why it is relevant to that journalist’s publication. You should also attach all the relevant imagery and press info to the email; it’s a good idea to paste the press release into the body text of the email so the journalist can read it without having to download the document.
12. Include a link to digital content.
Randy Mitchelson, APR, VP Sales and Marketing, iPartnerMedia, Inc.
If the news release is about an event, it is important to include a link to a Facebook event page. Most publications, especially daily ones, have digital versions via mobile app and web and love to have digital content to go along with the written word. Also, if it is a repeating event, include a link to a photo or two from the previous event. Host the image (use Google Drive or Dropbox or similar) and provide a sharable link rather than insert a large file attachment(s) to an email which could be blocked by an email server.
13. Don’t send your release on the hour.
Jessica Camp, PR Associate, Blue Fountain Media
Timing is crucial when disseminating press releases to a large audience. You need to think logically about when the audience you’re targeting, whether it be reporters or readers, will be inundated with news and avoid that time period. Often, whatever hour of the day I see fit for the subject matter and industry that we are distributing a release on, I’ll send it at the 6th minute of the hour. For example, distributing a release on the wire at 1:06 pm will face far less competition than if you send it at 1:00 pm with all of the other releases that are circulating.
14. A catchy subject line makes all the difference.
Rhonda Rees, Rhonda Rees Public Relations Company
I have had success in gaining press release coverage by coming up with the right angle or “hook” to ignite the interest of the media – starting with the title. Tying something into a news making headline, holiday theme, or other topic of interest has always been a plus. I then tailor-make media lists by hand selecting categories, and personalizing which editor, producer, or other booking contact is the appropriate fit.
A good tip is to make sure that the subject line has something interesting to say, so that the editor, journalist or media person will want to open it. Another smart idea is to add a well-written paragraph to your email to ensure that it gets read. Afterwards, I spend ample time conducting media relations follow-up calls.
15. Segment your distribution list when you’re using an email distribution service.
Thomas J. Madden, CEO, TransMedia Group
Distribution services have a role to play, yet they are signaling that everybody has received the same story. To avoid making that uninspiring impression, there are many other strategies, such as one TransMedia Group has used successfully over the years. One is called a “patterned release,” which simply targets journalists in a particular market by sending a release directly to the journalists who would most likely be interested in that particular story.
To do this effectively, you need to deploy a service like Cision to get email addresses and breakdowns of areas of interest, so you can send a release directly to the right person at the local print and broadcast media outlet, in addition to your digital rollout.
16. Send your press release for free using email marketing software
Matthew Steffen, President, Imprinsic Marketing Group
Go online and visit your local media sites and copy their emails and first names into an Excel sheet. Next, go to MailChimp, which is a free email marketing service, and create an account. Add your mailing list of local and national media reporters that you wish to send your releases to. Now you can build your release complete with all of your contact information into an email, and send it to every reporter on your list.
Once you submit your release, MailChimp allows you to see which recipients opened your email. This allows you to follow up with certain reporters of interest to determine if they need any additional quotes or details for their story regarding your release. You can also A/B split test your emails to see which subject lines have higher open rates.
17. Tie in relevant news from the current news cycle.
Kelly C. Coughlin, President, Annex Communication
First and foremost, the press release itself needs to contain “newsworthy” information. Marketing and advertising are what you as a company say about yourself, and press is what others say or reprint about you. The release should have some kind of news or official announcement perspective that allows a journalist to see if the subject matter is relevant to their beat of reporting. Before putting out the release, also consider the current news cycle and if the announcement has some relevance in current reporting.
18. Avoid a boy who cried wolf scenario.
Jennifer Fortney, President, Cascade PR
When you send press releases out just because you think you should, you can create a “crying wolf” scenario. By bombarding media with press releases that lack impactful news stories, hoping to create awareness, you’re actually doing yourself a disservice. Eventually, when you really have a story to tell, journalists will tune you out.
The most important part of a successful press release is that it is really newsworthy and a compelling news story journalists want to tell. Use facts and statistics in the lead paragraph to set up the importance of the story. Define the “why” – why is this so important to the industry, community, or consumers’ lives?
19. Use local community news as your angle.
Rob Pasquinucci, Sr. PR & Content Strategist, Intrinzic Brands
The key is to spend some time absorbing the news in your community and finding ways your business can fit into the stories of the day. Was there a huge storm that just passed through? An insurance agency can talk to reporters about how to file claims or make sure you have coverage for the next weather event. A tree service can discuss the best way to get broken limbs off your property safety. A roofing contractor can discuss why your roof should be inspected to look for hidden damage. The key is to offer the reporter an expert source who can add depth to the story and tips their readers/viewers can use.
20. Think outside the box for a compelling story.
David Mercer, Founder, SME Pals
Not every business is exciting to everyone. It can be harder to get media coverage working in sanitation than it can in celeb gossip. But just because it is harder doesn’t make it impossible. Be creative in the way you approach the ordinary aspects of your niche industry. Take your time thinking outside the box. Find something or someone interesting to talk about – especially if it involves other people. Don’t talk about yourself.
A press release can be about interesting players (individuals, companies, organizations, etc.) in your industry. Self-promotion will be duly ignored by almost every quality journalist. But, be sure to mention yourself in the press release (i.e. for more information, as a source, etc).
21. Pitch a story, not a press release.
Eleana Collins, Director, Warschawski
For starters, you’ll have the most success if you pitch a story, not a press release. When you’re pitching media, you’re pitching real people, who have writing interests, beats and topics they like to cover. So while your press release should provide all the details about your announcement, your “pitch” should be tailored to the reporter and explain how your story meets their interests.
Monitor and start following the writers you think are a fit for you and you’ll get a sense of not only what they cover, but who they are – and that’s important. Writers want to know that you actually follow them and enjoy their journalism. Tweet them a story that has a connection with your business. Sometimes, they’ll tweet about a story they’re working on and that they are looking for a source (we’ve had a lot of success with this). Respond to them if it’s relevant to your business or expertise.
22. Engage with journalists on Twitter.
Lexie Olson, Director of Public Relations, California Internet L.P. DBA GeoLinks
The majority of relevant journalists today can be found on Twitter actively sharing industry trends, news, and thoughts. While 140 characters doesn’t leave a lot of room for “fluff,” it forces publicists to create a hyper-focused, creative, and straightforward message that can be seen not only by the journalist, but also by their entire follower base. Better yet, pitch when replying to one of their relevant tweets. Make a pitch public and you’d be surprised how quickly others may respond!
23. Focus on the material instead of links.
Mike Catania, Chief Technology Officer, PromotionCode
A common strategy for maximizing the effectiveness of press releases was the practice of embedding optimized links throughout the article. Over the past several years, though, Google has determined those links to be unnatural, meaning that you should aggressively no-follow syndicated links from PR sites and avoid keyword-rich anchor text. It’s still entirely safe to link from your domain to your domain, but we work with a lot of small businesses that still insist upon stuffing as many links as they can into each release. Instead, we encourage them to keep the number of links to one or two and focus more on the material that’s promoted instead of the destination of the embedded links.
24. Follow your press release with a free sample.
Harold Nicoll, APR, Nicoll Creations
Most public relations people will send an email, and that is fine. But what I have started doing is following up with the media who open the releases I send and offer them a free sample of whatever I am promoting. I’ve done this successfully with men’s underwear, sports medicine, and organic personal care items. Writers will contribute reviews and add your goods to their gift guides.
25. Package your press release in a creative way.
Stephanie Clarke, Associate Vice President, General Manager Arizona, Havas PR
Be creative and don’t be afraid to try something that might seem outside of the “norm.” Remember, editors and writers are getting pitched hundreds, if not thousands, of press releases a day therefore finding a way to make yours stand out is the key. Before determining what exactly it is that will set your press release apart, know your audience and know whose attention you’re trying to grab.
For example, we were pitching a summer concert series on behalf of one of our clients. Instead of sending out a media alert, we designed an oversized concert ticket and incorporated the information within. It ended up being a fun and an attention-grabbing way to relay the news – and got great coverage too!
26. Pair the press release with a media drop.
Jessica Moran, Director, Marketing & Communications, Strainprint Technologies Ltd
My most successful recent pitches have been “media drops” which entails dropping the product off at the studio, radio or tv station, or newsroom, together with the press release and background information materials.
27. Organize your press release around business-related holidays.
Rachel Fullan, Marketing Director, LyncServe
Every day is a holiday! It really is. Do a quick search online and identify “holidays” that make sense for your business. An Italian restaurant may list out National Pizza Day (February 9), National Pasta Day (October 17) and National Lasagna Day (July 29). Next, create fun and engaging promotions around the holiday. For example, on National Pizza Day, invite kids in to make their own pizza.
Write a press release announcing the event and event take photos during the fun to send them to media afterwards with a photo caption (just be sure to get photo releases signed by parents of young children). Your cleverly-created event can be promoted with a press release sent to media, a dedicated email sent out to an email list, as well as highlighted on social media channels.
28. Inject humor into your press release.
Richard Laermer , Chief Exec, RLM pr
My favorite way to get something really done is to send a release along with a simple plant with a note: “Hope this plants an idea in your mind!” It sort of never fails, and the reporter is sure to remember you.
29. Don’t be intrusive when doing your follow-ups.
Sarah Johnson, Public Relations Specialist, Fit Small Business
Keep phone calls to a minimum. Journalists are busier than ever and typically have little to no time to hear your pitch over the phone. No journalist ever wants to hear: “Did you read my press release?” If you write a clever, succinct, topical pitch, that will hopefully generate a positive response from the media.
30. Use keywords that trend in your industry.
Maria Canul, Media Relations Strategist, PRx Digital
An increasing number of journalists use software programs to organize press releases that relate to their area of coverage before they read them. Use keywords that clearly define your announcement in terms of traditional media coverage areas, such as location or technology.
It is always a good idea to monitor trending topics that relate to your business, such as popular hashtags on Twitter or new industry buzzwords (be wary of using too much jargon though). By optimizing your press releases for software searches, as well as traditional search engines, you will increase visibility of any release.
Over to You
We’d like to thank everyone who contributed these press release distribution ideas. We hope that these ideas will help you generate news coverage for your next company news.