Submitting A Press Release

Posted by on Sep 23, 2013 in Business Writing | 0 comments

After spending about ten years as a video producer for a private company, I had a lot of experience in what I considered to be the “media” world. I then branched out and became the Marketing Director of a small start-up company selling a hot new product and managing a local celebrity spokesperson. The difference between these two jobs was that in video production, I had clients and at the start-up company I was a client. The difference in these two worlds was much greater than I expected.

When the owner of the start-up company asked me to do things like write press releases and negotiate print advertising rates, I smiled and said, “No problem!” This showed a confidence I did not really feel. My first year at the company was filled with lots of extra time at home spent searching Google, reading blogs, WikiHow, and asking lots of questions to people in other marketing and PR positions. My marketing experience was all learned hands-on through lots of advice, information, and mostly by trying things out to see what worked and what didn’t.

So, how do you submit a press release? First of all, make sure you’ve read Cramer’s article, Writing A Press Release. If you want to have your press release even given a cursory glance, you need to make sure you have it in the proper format with a catchy title. But back to business:

 

  1. Do your research – What media outlets?

This may seem self-explanatory but make sure you submit your press release to places that will care about what you’re promoting. Your local running and fitness magazine may care if your company is the headline sponsor for a new 5K, but if you’ve already bugged them with press releases announcing new products that don’t appeal to runners, they may ignore the release you send promoting an event that actually does line up with their audience.

Also, you likely don’t know all the magazines, newspapers, and media outlets in your area or in the area you are promoting. Many communities have at least a small newsletter that goes out to local residents. Do not overlook these smaller publications. Smaller publications are more likely to bite on the story and thus get more people out to your event.

 

  1. Do your research – Who & How?

OK, you have your list of places that you plan to send your press release. Now what? Now you need to find the right person to send the press release and in what format they prefer to receive what you’re sending. Unless you are spending a lot of money on a PR Firm to send these out for the company, you need to know what to do next.

First, determine if what you are selling or promoting would likely have a specific department. At larger media companies, you should be able to find the person in charge of that department and their email address on the company’s website. Some places will even tell you which person to contact to submit stories. (Although this isn’t typical as they do not want an inbox full of spammy press).

If looking up the information doesn’t work, call and ask. I realize we live in a world of text messages, social media and emails but a phone call and conversation with an actual human being can be your best friend. I’ve also found that admitting you don’t completely know what you are doing can occasionally make people even nicer to you and sometimes can get you all types of extra valuable information. Calling the media outlet or specific department and saying something like…

“Hi, my name is so and so from Company X, I’d like to submit a press release about such and such. I’m really new at this and want to make sure I’m getting the press release to the right person, in the format they prefer so I’m not causing you or them any extra hassle. Could you please help me or direct me to the right person?”

In my experience, humble will take you places. It’s very likely you will be talking to someone’s assistant or receptionist. The person with whom your are speaking has very likely been answering frustrating and pushy emails and phone calls all day and may relish a few minutes to get to talk to a nice sounding person. At worst they will be extremely busy and will be annoyed that you are wasting their time but will give you the information you requested anyway. At best you’ll spend five minutes listening to this person tell you a random story about their day, which will open up the conversation for a few more questions (gossip) about which reporters are best to work with, what type of stories they typically run with, etc. A simple “How is your day going?” and a friendly demeanor while they look up information can sometimes get you worlds of information you didn’t even know you needed.

 

  1. Do your research – Format

Make sure to find out how that particular person likes to receive their press releases. If they prefer it to be faxed, don’t email it anyway because you’re worried it will somehow fly off the fax machine and they will never see it. If they prefer you to email the press release, copy and paste the document into the body of the email. Do not bother attaching it (unless otherwise specified by the person receiving it). There can be a tendency to simply delete emails containing attachments, especially since they’ll be receiving this email from an address they probably won’t recognize.

 

  1. Exclusives

Exclusives relate especially to TV News outlets. Watch the news. It’s their absolute favorite thing to say, “Only on Channel 6!” The reason I bring this up is because it is not always best to send your press release to everyone right away if you have a bit of time.

 

  1. Follow Up

Once you’ve done all the research and you’ve successfully sent out your press release, make sure to pick up your phone again. This time call the person you sent the release to. Most of the time you will get their voice mail or an assistant. That’s fine. If you get an assistant, they may be able to tell you whether or not the press release was received and you can ask them any follow up questions. They may or may not be able to help you, but again, it’s worth a shot if you get to talk to an actual person. If you get their voice mail, then your message serves as a way to bring your press release to the top of their mind or it may pique their interest. You message will also quickly give them your contact information if they do indeed have any questions or want to follow up.

 

The bottom line to successfully sending out your press release is that you want to do most of your work up front. You want to do lots of research so you’re actually getting your release out to the right people at the right places in the right format. After that, follow up with a phone call and hope you wrote your press release well enough (or have a product or event interesting enough) that these very busy reporters will care enough to cover the information that you have worked so hard to send out.

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