How To Write a Press Release that Gets Read

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How To Write a Press Release

How To Write a Press Release

You’ve worked hard putting together a press release.  Now you need to get it out.  Problem is, you know that the majority of press releases get binned – after all, what’s news to one, may be spam to another.  So what can you do to up your chances of being read?  You need to stand out; you need to entice me.

When you are trying to get the attention of a reporter, there are three major points you need to consider that can help you increase your chances of being talked about:

  • Know the difference between a pitch and a press release – and how to pitch
  • Create relationships with those you wish to pitch – before you pitch them
  • Write useful and remarkable press releases – designed for specific outlets

In this post, I’ll talk about the differences between a pitch and a press release, and what makes a good pitch.  If you’re interested in the other two points, please consider subscribing to my RSS feed; I hope to talk about them over the coming weeks.

Know the difference between a pitch and a press release

Typically, press releases work to a formula; heading, sub heading (if any), place, date, company name, stock exchange reference, news, quote from company, company details.

I’m sure you’ve seen this type of release in the past:

Google and Virgin announce Mars expedition and colony

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. and LONDON, England (April 1st, 2008) – Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) and Virgin Group today announced the launch of Virgle Inc., a jointly owned and operated venture dedicated to the establishment of a human settlement on Mars.

Press releases like this were highly effective years ago, when PR folk needed to get a ton of information out via fax or an e-mail blast, and people didn’t have 24/7 access to information.Today, things are different.  While press releases are still valid for news wires and on corporate sites, they are not what you should be sending to bloggers and journalists, because, thanks to the Web, we can now go to the corporate site or to the wire, and get it ourselves; you need to send us a pitch.

A pitch is the ‘cover letter’ that condenses the information to a couple of succinctly worded paragraphs that talk about, or point to, a press release.

I realize this makes for more work, but as Brian Solis points out: “ Your alternatives may be running dry.”

So, what makes a good pitch?

No matter how much time, money, and resources you have spent on writing the perfect press release, without a brilliant pitch, it won’t be noticed, and what a shame for everyone involved.  Bloggers and journalists want your news, and you have news to offer; we just need to work out a way to move it around so that it is good for everyone.

There are many conversations going on about how PR folk are getting it so wrong, and rather than add to that, I thought I’d take a look at what makes a good pitch, by publishing three that I received recently, and talking about what made them stand out.

Pitch One – From Maples Communications

Subject Line: Former Chief Security Officer for eBay and Microsoft to Discuss Security Topics at RSA

“Lidija,

Howard Schmidt, former chief security officer for eBay and Microsoft and former White House cyber security advisor, will be available at RSA to discuss a wide variety of security topics. 

Currently Howard is the security strategist for (ISC)2, the largest organization of information security professionals in the world.  Howard can discuss any number of hot-button security issues, such as end-user security awareness, as well as current (ISC)2 global initiatives, such as the Childnet program, which is bringing Internet safety training to children.

If you would like to schedule an appointment with Howard, please contact me at your earliest convenience.

Pitch Two – from Stalwart Communications

Subject Line: RSA Meeting Request – NSS Labs

Hi Lidija,

I’d like to offer you a chance to meet with NSS Labs while at RSA. The independent security testing company recently launched its PCI product certification program.  NSS Labs will also be announcing at the show that its awarded the “NSS Approved” label to a Fortune 20 company’s line of multi-function security solutions after the products underwent its comprehensive testing process.

I can give you time with the company’s principals, partners and customers at their booth.  Thanks for considering.

Pitch Three – from Shift Communications:

Subject Line: Your Schedule During RSA?

Hi Lidija,

I noticed your name on the press list for the upcoming RSA Conference and would love to get Jeremiah Grossman, CTO of WhiteHat Security on your calendar during the show.

In case you are not familiar, WhiteHat is a provider of website security services and has just launched a major partnership with F5 Networks (NASDAQ: FFIV), so the company has some exciting news to update you on.  You may recognize Jeremiah from last year’s RSA Conference, where he was a top-rated speaker, or from his blog.  

At RSA 2008, Jeremiah will be speaking during session HT1-203 as well as at the WASC lunch, both taking place on 4/9. 

Can you let me know when might be good for you to grab a quick coffee or bite to eat with Jeremiah? 

So, what makes these three pitches so special?

All three help make my day easier.  They:

  • Made good use of the subject field
  • Addressed me correctly
  • Filtered the information for me
  • Provided ways for me to access more information
  • Used plain English in their pitch
  • Told me something new
  • Made sure I could read it

Let’s examine each of these, and talk about why they worked over others.

Great Pitches start with understandable Subject Lines

You are in PR, or marketing, or journalism, so you know how to use words well. Think of headlines when writing your subject line, and use it to grab my attention.

If there is space, let me know what I’m about to read as succinctly as you can – try not to be too clever or witty, it doesn’t work in subject lines.  Think: event, news, product, company.

This is an example of one that was easy enough to understand:

“RSA Conference Advisory:  NetMotion Tackles Common Mobile Security Challenges with WorkSafeBC”

By stating the event (RSA), company (NetMotion and WordSafe BC) and product(Mobile Security), I can easily determine what the e-mail is about so it saves me time.

While you may think writing a great subject line is obvious, take a look at a few that left me wondering (names removed):

“Hi Lidija! RSA Conf.: [Product] Get Around… In [Company] and [Company] booths too”

My name doesn’t need to be in the subject line, and I’m not sure what ‘get around’ means in this context.

“[Company] Men in Black are Ready to Protect the Universe and Your Network at RSA”

An attempt to be different backfires because personally I find it lame.  Don’t try to be witty – keep it simple.

Address me correctly

So simple that most people don’t even think about it, and thus the problem begins.

Get my name right – it’s “Lidija” – the three pitches above managed to do it, many others didn’t:

  • Hi Lijida
  • Hi Davis
  • Dear Ladies and Gentlemen
  • Hi (%Name%) [seriously]

Call it vanity, call it what you like, but there it is – it bugs me.

Filter the information for me

When sending me a pitch, consider writing a couple of sentences that introduce me to your product/service/company/brand, so that I can quickly determine whether it suits the audience I am reporting for, and whether I want to find out more.

If you pitch this way, there is a good chance of getting a reply, regardless of whether I end up promoting your product or not – I will remember your name though.

Provide enough information

Paste the press release at the bottom of your pitch, or give me the link to it and any other information that I may need.  If I like what I read in your pitch, I want to be able to access more information quickly – the fewer clicks I need to make, the happier I am.

Use plain English in your pitch

Use plain English and avoid jargon with your pitches – save it for your press release.  If I find it too difficult to follow I won’t get past the second paragraph before I bin it.

Bear in mind: Just because I write about technology doesn’t mean I understand every nuance across the various specific fields.  Sure, it might work if you’re pitching an IT specialist or analyst, but remember, I’m a reporter, you’ll have a better chance of getting my attention if I can understand what you are talking about, and English is my thing.

If your pitch interests me, I will take the time to work out the jargon.  But please, give me a chance to know what you are talking about before you hit me with how you “target high-risk host components using XYZ product.”

Tell me something new

I don’t want the standard, abstract, non-specific information that everyone else is giving me, and I have a pet hate for the usual adjectives too; tell me something new that’s interesting and specific to you.

From another pitch:

“Utilizing advanced auditing techniques to non-intrusively determine if a host is vulnerable to exploits and data loss”

Come on.  Every company involved with information security “utilizes advanced auditing techniques” and wants to “determines if a host is vulnerable to exploits and data loss

Why should I pick your brand to talk about?

Avoid overuse of common adjectives

Be creative – try and avoid words like:

  • an innovatorin…
  • offers an advancedapproach…
  • provides unprecedentedlevels of accuracy…
  • assures users unparalleledprotection…

Of course I know your product is incredible, amazing, thought inspiring, breakthrough – keep that for your sales pitch.  I just want to know what it does – and quickly.

Let me see what you are sending me

Another simple one, but again, often overlooked.  Try not to include images.  All images are automatically blocked by my (and many others) inboxes.  This means I don’t get to see it, and I’m not going to risk my computer just to see what you want to show me; the potential problems are not worth my effort.

While I’m not so fussed about your company logo not displaying, I don’t like getting entire pitches or press release that are image only – I tend to bin them immediately and this saddens me because you’ve obviously put in a lot of work.  Don’t waste your time.

In this age of easy Web access, if you want me to take a look at an image, why not create a page and send me the link?  I promise I’ll take a look – if you’ve convinced me in your pitch that it is worth considering.

The Web has been the catalyst for change across all industries, and we all need to adapt and work together.  If you’ve had some great experiences with pitches and press releases, consider talking about them in the comments below; learning is good, learning together can be better.  What do you think?

 

By Julie Bradley

 

 

I try to help every student. I help to choose a topic for an essay, I carefully think through the structure and follow essay`s format. Work as a blogger for the site Studymoose.com and other educational sites. Higher education, Master of Psychology. Degree in the Humanities.

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