How to get editors to read and publish your Press Releases (PR)
January 11, 2018
July 25, 2022
Do you regularly send out announcements to newspapers and web portals? And are they almost never published? Thanks to his experience with various news editing departments, our author shows you how you are most likely to get your press releases published.
Most Important: Actually Writing a Press Release
Small and mid-sized companies especially often neglect to write press releases. However, newspapers, TV stations, radio stations and news portals with a strong regional connection are extremely thankful for anything newsworthy from their area. So, for that reason it’s worth it for retailers, craftspeople etc. to bank on press releases.
Good to Know: Press Releases are Rarely Adopted 1:1
Press releases, PR for short, are as a rule not adopted exactly as they were written. In particular, this is done to reduce the risk of publishing the exact same text as placed on other medias. On the Internet, where Google desires unique content, this practice is especially important.
That is one side of the coin, but the other is: Editorial teams hardly have the capacity to rewrite a PR, so often just the headline is changed and possibly a paragraph is supplemented or rearranged. So the better your PR fits into their editorial approach, the more likely it is to be published.
That means with a well-structured press release, you can make it easier for an editorial team to publish your PR. We’ll show you how that’s done.
1. Newsworthy Events Belong in a Press Release
When something is newsworthy, it is worth reporting or sharing. According to dictionary.com, news is “a report of a recent event; intelligence; information.” And an “event” is to be understood here in the broadest sense. A product can also be an event. In addition, the newsworthy event could also be one that takes place in the future.
Something newsworthy also always has a novelty or rarity element. Perhaps you’re familiar with this: When you become an aunt or uncle for the first time, you tell a lot of people about it. When you become an aunt or uncle for the fourth time, you hardly mention it.
And relevance is also important. If the accounting manager of a software company retires, that is of no interest whatsoever for a software magazine.
The shoelace producer “Bowman & Sons” introduces a self-tying shoelace. It will be available starting on the day of the press release. This event is newsworthy because the timetable is short.
Furthermore, until now no self-tying shoelace has existed. So it’s unique. However, that uniqueness can be limited, for example to a certain region. “Bowman & Sons” is perhaps producing the first German self-tying shoelaces, or the first ones in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
Note: Even if nothing makes it newsworthy on a global scale, because there are already a lot of these in the world, it can still be thoroughly newsworthy in your region.
“Bowman & Sons” sends the press release to shoelace magazines and shoelace portals. But it also sends the PR to parenting magazines. After all, many mothers and fathers spend time tying their children’s shoes on a daily basis. The press release is therefore relevant for professional publications as well as those with a specific target audience.
Recently happened, presently happening, or will happen
Unique or at least rare (don’t forget the regional consideration)
2. The W Questions Determine the Content
Every press release should answer the following W questions as early in the copy as possible:
And even though we say “as early in the copy as possible” that doesn’t mean cram all the information into the first sentence. (see „6. Short Sentences“)
3. Background Information
Enclose additional information about your company with each press release. The editor can use it for example to extend the text so that if fits in the layout. And the practical thing is: As long as nothing about the company changes, you can use the same information with each PR.
4. Meaningful Headline
An ideal PR headline informs, arouses interest and is easy to understand.
To be informative, it should answer at least three of the seven W questions. (see „The W Questions Determine the Content“.)
– New Shoelaces from “Bowman & Sons” Available at Retail Starting Today –
This headline provides the what, who, when and where. However, this headline will hardly appeal to an editorial team because new shoelaces are really nothing rare.
To awaken interest, the headline has to call out the sensational part of the message right in the headline itself. In this example, it is that the new shoelaces are self-tying. A PR does exactly the opposite of a novel or a movie. The surprise is given away right in the title.
– Self-Tying Shoelaces from “Bowman & Sons” Available at Retail Starting Today –
The headline can also be adapted to fit the respective editor. For an industry magazine a common technical term can be incorporated. For a regional newspaper, for example, it is the relevance to the reader.
The length of the title shouldn’t exceed 200 characters. That is the industry standard.
5. Teasers and/or Bullet Points
A teaser is an informative summary of your press release which should also arouse more interest. We recommend always drafting a teaser. News portals especially need these as they are displayed on the summary page. Ultimately, the headline and teaser determine whether the reader clicks on the announcement.
A teaser should be comprised of two to four short, meaningful sentences.
Alternatively, you can also place bullet points with the most important content from your press release underneath the headline. The editor can then quickly see what exactly it’s about and can then formulate a teaser himself.
If you want to cover all your bases, write up bullet points and underneath also a teaser. Then the editing team has a choice.
6. Short Sentences
Short, easy to understand sentences are just as important in a PR as in any other informative copy. After all, the editor wants to quickly pull the information out of the press release. If you build long complex sentences here, you’ve already lost.
Even if you like lengthy, convoluted sentences or consider them to be intellectually sophisticated, they have no business in a press release. Make it as simple as possible for the editors and readers to understand the text.
Even large companies still manage to make their press releases sound like advertising copy. Serious editors are scared away by this type of language because they know their audience values information, not self-praise. The editor therefore has to strike the advertising language from the copy. That takes time which is in short supply in most editorial departments. So editors would rather publish an objectively formulated text.
It is usually helpful to remove any superlatives from your press release copy. However, if you want to use a superlative, then justify it.
Superlatives like “most innovative”, “most creative” or “grandest” etc. cannot be proven, so never use them. The editing team will cut them anyway.
Example of an established superlative:
Producing 30 million shoelaces a month, “Bowman & Sons” is the largest shoelace manufacturer worldwide.
8. Content-Related Quotes
Quotes are a popular device to artificially inflate press releases.
Say, companies A and B resolve to work together in partnership. It’s an announcement that can be presented practically in a single paragraph. Because one paragraph doesn’t seem to be enough though, quotes from both CEOs are presented. But in each quote the respective boss is just looking forward to the cooperation. That has no relevance for the reader and therefore none for the editor either. So, in your press releases, be sure to include quotes which convey further information.
9. Not Too Long and Not Too Short
A press release shouldn’t be too short, but not excessively long either. 350 to 700 words is a good benchmark.
The announcement shouldn’t be less than 350 words. The reason for this is clear in the print sector because the layout requires a certain length. Editors would prefer to shorten rather than lengthen something. In the online sector the reason is almost ridiculous: Many editorial departments use SEO tools, which ensure search engine optimized copy, for their web portals. At less than 350 words these tools become fussy. That makes editors nervous and they feel compelled to increase the length of the copy. And once again, adding to a text takes time. Thus, the chance of being published drops with a copy that is too short.
Note on SEO tools and text length:
Google doesn’t punish texts that are too short, only those with irrelevant or inflated content. However, SEO tools aren’t privy to the algorithms Google uses for copy assessment (relevant or irrelevant). Therefore, they simply assume that a shorter text offers less content than a more extensive one. <(p>
Very long texts are fatal for an editor. He usually only wants the essentials, especially since he doesn’t have a lot of time to read.
Simply offer more information on your website. That way you can still keep press releases pleasingly short, even when they concern more complex subject matter.
10. Only Established Technical Terms
Unfamiliar or very specialized technical terms should be avoided or at least explained in a press release. This is also true if you are sending your PR to a professional journal or technical portal. As a rule, their news editors are not trade journalists, as those people are busy writing their own articles. So you can’t be certain that the person reading your press release will be familiar with all your technical terms. If he doesn’t understand them, your chance at publication decreases tremendously.
11. List Dates at the Beginning and Repeat at the End
If your press release mentions dates or deadlines, then it’s best to do so right in the headline. Repeating the date at the end of the PR is also a good idea. That way the reader is reminded of it again.
Providing information for a scheduled event also always includes not just the date, but also the time and location.
12. Getting Press Releases to Editors
It’s easy to get your PR message to the people on press portals. When using them you can choose between no-cost and fee-based portals.
No charge portals publish your release on their website. That increases its findability via Google and the odd journalist will come across your PR when doing his research.
Four recommended press portals where you can place your PR :
Take an afternoon and set-up your own distribution list for your press releases. Search for appropriate newspapers, magazines, and webpages. Don’t forget regional radio and television stations.
On the “about us” copyright or contact page you can find the email address for the editor. Sometimes, there’s even a direct address for press releases, so be sure to use that one. Save the email address in your email distribution list. When you find new press contacts, add them too. Over time you’ll build up a good distribution list this way. The only thing you have to invest is a few hours of work.
Facebook, Twitter and others are superbly suited for publishing press releases. Generally speaking, press portals usually have an integrated function for publication to the social media networks.
Our Tip for Small Businesses:
Combine your in-house distribution list with one from a free press portal that is relevant to your content.
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