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Updated: January 17, 2024

The press release is not dead. Here’s how to send one wisely.

To paraphrase Mark Twain, rumors of the death of the press release are greatly exaggerated. Even in today’s whirlwind world of digital PR tools and social media DMs, the press release is still alive and well. It still matters!

But the press release is a weapon that should be wielded wisely. Public relations practitioners need to understand when to send one and, perhaps more importantly, when not to wield it. To understand the best (or worst) timing, it is first important to understand news coverage from a reporter’s perspective.

Provided photo
Nancy Marshall

Let’s say that you have identified a reporter at a regional newspaper as your target audience — a potential recipient of your press release. What does that reporter cover on a regular basis? On social media, what interests them? What are they posting for all to see?

Ask yourself: Would they feasibly be interested in your press release? Would they care, based on their beat?

If so, then it is worth pitching them. Even if there is a small chance of news coverage, a press release could be a big opportunity — but there needs to be a realistic chance.

If you’re just sending out a press release for the sake of it, then it may not be the wisest approach to PR. You shouldn’t just check a box. The best PR professionals take media research seriously, putting themselves in a reporter’s shoes to recognize their interest and pitch based on that.

Details matter

In terms of the actual mechanics of press release outreach, details matter. Here are some to consider.

  • Again, make sure the press release is something “newsworthy,” and not just an advertisement. Avoid superlatives. Stick to facts and figures, explaining why the content is relevant in a given news cycle. And turn the press statement into content of value, not just throwaway jargon.
  • This may sound obvious, but many pressers include names of people, companies, or other inflation that are misspelled. Edit, edit, and edit some more — mistakes come across as unprofessional. It is a good idea for someone to proofread a release once or twice before it goes out.
  • Include photos as necessary. If it is a people-related announcement, headshots are useful. If it is about a new building, show the actual building in your presser. Visual releases are more eye-catching but remember to send photos as JPG attachments to avoid formatting issues (not embedded in the actual release).
  • Press release timing: Even if you send out the proverbial “bad news release” at 5 pm on a Friday, someone may still try to reach out for a comment. Always be prepared to respond to a media inquiry, since you never know when it may come or how important it may become.
  • If you send out a press release, make sure someone is actually in the office to answer any follow-up calls. It is shocking how many releases go out while the person listed as the media contact is on vacation. (Maybe some of that is intentional.) Be available!
  • Embargoes are important in many cases, requesting or requiring that information from a press release not be published until a certain day or time. If you want an embargo, that needs to be spelled out clearly at the top of a release, with the specific time or day that the embargo can be lifted. Something like this works, in capital letters: “UNDER EMBARGO UNTIL FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 16TH AT 9 AM”
  • If a reporter does not respond to a press release immediately, don’t follow up right away. Don’t be a nuisance. If you don’t hear back within 24 to 48 hours, a follow-up note may be necessary, but reporters need time to digest information. So give them enough time before “circling back” or “touching base.”

There you have it. If you remember those key details, the press release can indeed be a wise weapon to wield. It can go a long way in promoting an individual, a company, or some other organization in a way that is newsworthy and may lead to independent news coverage. And that sort of third-party media interest brings credibility, legitimacy, and trust that traditional advertising cannot match.

But a press release is not an ad. Nor is it an excuse to dump uninteresting content into an email or bother reporters with it.

Pretend you’re the reporter receiving your press release. Draft, edit, and send it out accordingly, and you’ll be alright. Happy pitching!

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