A friend recently shared a press release his company had sent to several media outlets that purported to deliver some news. Problem was, the release contained nothing truly newsworthy. One big strike: It mentioned that my friend had been hired for his new position last year. Last year? Given the 24/7 news cycle, that may as well have been 1913, not 2013.
If there’s one sure-fire way to get your news release deleted instantly from a journalist’s inbox, it’s to ignore the sense of urgency that should invigorate the news release. Why should a journalist—and his or her audience—care about this information right now?
When I chat with folks about press releases, one of the principles I always try to underscore is that the word “new” is part of the word “news.” If it’s not new, then you really don’t have any news. And if you really don’t have any news, then you shouldn’t bother sending a limp press release to the media just so you can check it off your obligatory to-do list.
Not every circumstance deserves a press release. Don’t mindlessly use them as a crutch. Your client may be screaming for a press release, but you’ve got to practice some tough love if there’s no solid reason to put out a release.
So how do you still get your client in the news if you realize that the news-release route is a dead end? Here are four suggestions that have resulted in coverage for my employers by media outlets such as NPR, The Wall Street Journal
, the "Today" show and The Huffington Post
1. Write a guest article.
Many newspapers and websites are hungry for content. If your client boasts expertise in a certain area, such as personal finance, then you should trot out that expertise in the form of a guest article or guest blog post. Make sure you frame your pitch in such a way that will entice, not repel, an editor. Be as specific as you can about what the bylined piece will cover and why the media outlet’s audience should pay attention.
Once you snag a guest-article gig, carefully follow the media outlet’s guidelines. For instance, media outlets normally despise self-serving, sales-oriented pieces, as well as ones that are long-winded and go over the prescribed word count. The article should be crafted well, and should be free of spelling and grammatical errors. Most of all, the piece should be worth a reader’s time.
2. Get on TV.
Experts of all sorts populate the morning TV airwaves, in markets big and small. If your client is camera-ready and able to speak in snappy sound bites about his or her area of expertise, then send a pitch to the producers of morning shows at local TV stations. Can your client address a timely news item, such as a breaking news event or the holiday shopping season? Morning show producers likely will appreciate the pitch even more.
3. Tune in to talk radio.
Your client may be clamoring for coverage in local newspapers, but local and national talk-radio shows shouldn’t be overlooked. Despite the rise of new media, talk radio remains a popular medium. Talk radio producers are eager to fill time with well-spoken experts, and talk radio listeners are eager to hear them.
4. Provide tips.
Let’s say your client is an accounting firm that specializes in taxes. In advance of tax-filing day, April 15, you could send tips to various media outlets such as the “10 tax deductions you might be ignoring.” Tip-oriented lists are popular with media outlets—and their readers, viewers and listeners. And, of course, they help position your client as a go-to expert in his or her field.
John Egan is editor in chief at SpareFoot, an Austin, Texas-based startup that helps people find and book self-storage units online, offline and via mobile devices.