Have you ever crafted the perfect press release, and then had no media coverage?
You probably followed the formatting tips to a tee, got the perfect quote from your CEO, and tied it together with a catchy headline. And then, it fell flat – your press release wasn’t picked up and there was no media coverage.
As a public relations professional, writing press releases comes naturally after enough practice (but in case you’re still learning, we’ve covered it in our ultimate how to write a press release guide). Unfortunately, even the perfect press release won’t provide the impact you’re looking for without visibility.
However, to secure media coverage, you need to be able to reach out to media contacts in a way that will make your story stand out. Reporters typically receive dozens of pitches per day (if not many more!), so it’s vital that yours is personalized, well-written, and more than just your everyday email blast.
We’ve compiled some best practices that will help you reach out to journalists in a way that will make them want to cover your press release.
An email is only as good as its subject line.
No, seriously. You could write the most interesting pitch of all time, package it up perfectly, and send it through, but if the reporter doesn’t open the email, well, you’re out of luck. A compelling subject line is key if you want the reporter to open your email with all the other noise in their inbox.
Consider this idea in your own day-to-day. Which subject line is more likely to prompt an open?
The majority would likely say the latter. The second subject line not only addresses the reader by name, but also creates a sense of urgency and intrigue.
The same goes for media pitches. Think of your email subject line in the same way you think of the title to your press release. It should contain enough information that it won’t get disregarded, but still spark the reporter’s curiosity and urge them to read more.
By following some subject-line best practices, you increase the chances of getting your email opened, which will get the reporter to the important part: your press release.
First and foremost, personalize your subject line. Referring to the reporter by name is an easy way to show you’ve done your research and that they aren’t just a number on a mass email list.
Personalizing location is another way to optimize your subject line. Say you’re reaching out to a Chicago tech reporter who covers local startup news. They’ll likely be more intrigued by an email with the subject line “Chicago software startup to receive funding from major VC” as opposed to “VC firm to fund local startup” due to the geographical relevance and specificity of the former.
A key aspect of subject lines is their length. It should be exactly what its name says: a line. If your subject line is so long that it gets cut off, you’ll need to clean it up a bit. On the other hand, it shouldn’t be so short that a reporter is left dumbfounded. Five-to-seven words is usually a sweet spot — a good balance between providing enough context and peaking curiosity.
There are a few sure-fire ways to immediately land your press release in the trash bin, but a lack of personalization may be the worst offense. Beginning your email pitch with “To whom it may concern” is the online equivalent of saying “Hey, you!” when you don’t remember that new colleague’s name.
After the subject line, the greeting will be the first thing the journalist reads, so be sure to make the most of it. This can be as simple as a “Good morning, John!” or a “Hey there, Jane” — anything that proves you’ve done your research and haven’t sent out a mass email blast will get you ahead.
Speaking of mass email blasts (and we hope this goes without saying), never use the BCC or, heaven forbid, the CC tool when sending out a press release. Reporters have seen it all, and will typically be able to tell whether you’ve sent out a blast or emailed them directly. Even a BCC won’t fool them, so we wouldn’t suggest risking it.
It is certainly a bit more work, but the extra time you spend reaching out to reporters directly will pay off in both the quantity and quality of coverage you see.
While a direct email and a personalized greeting will get you far, there are plenty of opportunities to personalize your message throughout the body as well. Referencing a journalist’s past work in your pitch will show them that you’ve done your research and personally selected them for their repertoire.
For example, say you’re a tech company that recently brought on a new executive, and you’ve seen a journalist that releases a regular article on the week’s top tech hires. By mentioning that in your email, the journalist knows that you’re not sending a mass email, and more importantly, that you’ve specifically selected them to approach because your topic could be of interest.
While those are all great starting points, personalizing your pitch really comes down to one thing: doing your research. Knowing who your reporter is, what they like to write about, their personal writing style, and more, can be the deciding factors between a glowing article or just another deleted email.
Journalists are of the busiest breed. With stories to write, deadlines to meet, and dozens of pitches feeding into their inbox every day, any opportunity you have to make their life easier will help put you in their good graces.
What this means first and foremost is simple: Don’t waste their time. For those working at a media publication, time is of the essence. Sending a two-page long email, or pitching your business event to a sportswriter probably isn’t going to cut it. What will work is sending a concise pitch that’s tailored to their specific needs — but to see even better results, there’s more you can do.
Sending a full press kit along with your pitch will almost always be appreciated and increase your chances of coverage. Including a press kit on your company and the information you’re pitching will minimize the time the reporter has to spend on research.
In a reporter’s eyes, having all of the information in front of them makes your story significantly more appealing than one that requires a lot of digging, especially if they’re on a tight deadline If you have a press kit put together already, there’s really no downside to this. The worst case scenario is that they don’t use what you provided — on the other hand, if works in your favor, you’ll increase your chance of coverage and have some control over the narrative.
Perhaps you’re pitching a story on your company’s new charitable initiative. A well-done press kit would include multiple elements that support your message. A company fact sheet that includes the basic details — mission and vision, year established, employee headcount, funding rounds, etc. — will give the reporter a high-level overview of who you are, what you’re doing, and what you stand for. A fact sheet ensures they don’t have to seek out the simple facts and can spend more time focusing on the initiative.
Furthermore, including the fact sheet of the charity you’re supporting (or at least a link to its website) will provide more context and, again, save the reporter time. Additional resources, like quotes or images, will set your press kit apart from the others and help to tell your story.
Finally, be sure to include the correct information of your media contact. We know, this sounds obvious, but it’s vital that this information is kept updated and readily available.
By minimizing the work needed and providing important details, a reporter is likely to consider covering your story and may even look to you for future opportunities.
Unfortunately, even the most perfect press release will fall flat without adequate coverage. We’ve covered a lot, so we invite you to bookmark this page and come back as needed. With these tips, soon your press release will be seeing maximum visibility and truly be making an impact.
Claire is the content marketing team lead, coming to G2 after graduating from the University of Dayton. Born and raised in the Chicago area, her brief stint in Ohio gave her a new appreciation for deep-dish pizza, but left her well-versed in Cincinnati-style chili and "cities" with a population fewer than 400,000. While not writing, Claire can be found practicing calligraphy, seeking out the best dive bars in Chicago, and planning her next trip. (she/her/hers)
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