How to approach a journalist with a story.

If you think we’re still living in a world where journalists are solely interested in your entrepreneurship, forget it! These days, editorial column inches are in such short supply that, in order to get your brand in the papers, you have to be ready to fight for your right to exposure.

Is our story unique?

Editors, be they in print, digital, or broadcast media, have at least dozens of press releases across their desks every week, sometimes hundreds. Will yours stand out? Even in the old days, every story had to have an angle and, with windows of opportunity shrinking in both print and broadcast, today that’s even more crucial. The secret is that every story has an angle – you just have to know where to look for it. Maybe your product? Possibly your staff? You yourself – is your story remarkable? Brainstorming sessions with your staff are a great way of approaching challenges of this nature. If you’re lucky enough to have a dedicated PR person, encourage them to take this route.

Is it relevant to the publications’ demographic?

Whatever you do, ensure your press releases don’t just go to the same ‘usual suspects’. Of course, your business will have its own trade media, and they should be on the receiving end every time, even if it’s just a small NiB (news in brief) item. Most regional and national media have dedicated business pages and these should also be targeted. However, will the editor of Poodle Parlour Monthly be interested in a media release from Remton Steel Products? Probably not; unless, of course the tools of their trade are made from Remton Steel and the announcement is that steel prices are skyrocketing. The secret is: don’t scatter-gun but don’t overlook the less obvious recipients either.

Does it have revenue earning potential for the publication?

There was a time when the editorial and commercial sides of the media were light years apart and rarely spoke with each other, let alone collaborated. As commercial pressures bite, however, that is no longer the case and the successful editor will have a keen commercial head, as well as an eye for a story.

Do you have the budget to buy advertising space? If so, do so but ensure your commercial involvement isn’t obvious. You’d be best to place your ad in another edition of the publication if possible. Don’t worry, the revenue-hungry sales executive will be only too happy to oblige; nothing will lose your story credibility faster than an ad for your company appearing on the same page.

Even if you can’t afford to advertise right now, a suggestion that you might in the future will be enough to secure you a few column inches at least.

Is my media release written properly?

There’s a certain structure to a media release. You cannot throw together a few pages about your company and expect the media to do the rest of the work.

  • Ensure your media release contains a catchy opening gambit, the salient points, and any information not for publication marked as such
  • Include contact details for the person sending the release, or a senior member of your team
  • Attach the release to the email - don’t write it in the body
  • Never, ever embed images (see below)
  • Do not use jargon
  • Your release should be no more than two pages long.

Take a look at some of the common mistakes that people make when writing a press release

Are my expectations realistic?

Print, broadcast and digital - especially print – have ever shrinking editorial space. Without a strong pitch, it’s unlikely that you’re going to find a whole or half page dedicated to your company’s activities.

Images, images, images!

The media lives for audio-visual content. One well-structured picture of a celebrity cutting the ribbon on your new premises can replace a thousand words of editorial. Likewise, embedded video on your website or even some audio clips will fire the imagination of your existing and potential customers.
There’s nothing worse for someone in the media to ask for an image of the newest member of your senior team than to be told to “get it off the website”. Create an image bank in advance of your senior staff, branding, and products and ensure everyone know where they are. Images should be a minimum of 300dpi (dots per inch) for print publications. For digital use, resolution may be as low as 72dpi.