Next time you prepare to send press releases to the media, take a minute to ask whether the accompanying email is up to standard. Does your email highlight the most newsworthy parts of your press release? Is it too wordy? And does it do anything that might put off journalists?
To help you avoid the most common mistakes, I've created this line-by-line guide to pitching your press release. I hope it helps.
- To field - Send your press release to a specific person, but CC in other relevant email addresses such as the editor and the newsdesk. Bear in mind that your preferred journalist may not be in the office that day, or may just be too busy to read your press release properly.
- Subject heading - Try to be as concise as possible because most inboxes cut off longer messages. Also, never start your subject heading with 'Press release' or 'New press release' – this wastes valuable time and should be obvious anyway.
- Attachments - Attach a copy of the press release in Word – few journalists bother to open sluggish PDFs. Furthermore, remember to attach a company logo and/or a relevant image in .jpg format. Most publications are desperately short of visuals, so even the most lacklustre press release can get coverage on the back of a decent image.
- Paragraph 1 - Be sure to name the journalist and their publication directly. Be polite but don't be afraid to go less formal if you've built up a personal relationship. And make sure you mention the reason for the email in your opening as well.
- Paragraph 2 - Explain the topic of the press release but don't go into too much detail – one or two lines is enough. Draw their attention to the fact that you're including images as well.
- Paragraph 3 - Don't be afraid to state exactly what you'd like the journalist to do. Whether you want them to rewrite the press release, use it in an upcoming feature or even get involved directly, it's best to be clear about it to avoid any confusion. In addition, encourage them to get in touch. A journalist who is sitting on the fence may be more inclined to cover the story if they know you're keen to help.
- Paragraph 4 - A great tip is to always copy your press release into the main body of your email. Many journalists won't open attachments as a rule, but there's always the chance that you'll catch their eye by including the press release in your message.
I should add that many successful press officers take a very different approach to press release pitches. There is plenty of room for creativity - after all, your ultimate goal is catching a journalist's imagination and there are a million different ways of doing that.
So if you've got any other tips for pitching your press release, I'd love to hear them. Just post a message on the comments section or get in touch via theEword Twitter page.