We’ve all been there: Writing a press release and figuring out where and how to pitch it to receive the best coverage for your client. Adding in and taking out information to most effectively grab a journalist’s attention. Well, we got in touch with Star Tribune reporter Jeff Strickler and Sacramento Bee journalist Dale Kasler, who offer their expertise about pitching to the pros.
Here are some tips on how to craft your releases in a way that increases the odds of them getting noticed by the media:
Do a little homework: Before pitching your story, figure out what the journalist covers and double-check that your release offers relevant information to his/her beat. Jeff Strickler advises to first check the newspaper’s website to figure out the reporter’s beat. Dale Kasler adds that local papers rarely have time to cover national business trend stories. If there isn’t a local angle, your release may not be applicable. Doing your homework first will help you to tailor the release to a specific target.
Think like a reporter: Remember the inverted pyramid? Make sure you’re using it in your writing. Start with the big stuff and then work your way down by filling in the details. “If the main point grabs my attention,” says Strickler, “I’ll wade through all the details.” You risk losing the attention of the reporter if they have to work through small particulars before being able to understand the big picture.
Speak English: We all want to be creative in an attempt to differentiate our pitch from the dozens of others but sometimes, as Kasler explains, “press releases are too clever for their own good.” Avoid jargon and make sure your release is easy to understand.
Get to the point: No frills. Enough said.
Make your release mutually beneficial: Journalists care about the paper’s readers; bringing publicity to your client is not their priority. Strickler urges: “Help me find a way to help my readers and we can help each other.” They want to know how your pitch will hold interest for their readers or viewers, so don’t make the release too advertise-y. Focus the release on the newsiest element of your client. This way, everybody wins.
Don’t be a bother: As Strickler explains, “There’s a fine line between being persistent and being a pest.” Many reporters get dozens of pitches a day and following up on all of them is usually impossible. And Kasler warns to be careful of sending an endless stream of inefficient pitches or the entire PR firm may end up in the good ol’ spam filter.
What about social media? Although social media outlets like Twitter are changing how we contact and engage with others in the industry, many reporters (both Kasler and Strickler included) prefer receiving pitches via email. And take caution when picking up the phone to pitch. “Phone calls too often interrupt other things,” says Strickler.
Jodi Osmond recently graduated summa cum laude from UW-Milwaukee with a Bachelor’s degree in journalism and media communication and certification in digital arts and culture. As a social media and community engagement intern at Allée, she is eager to continue growing professionally while embracing her passion for public relations and social media.