What I’ve Learned as an Intern: Press Releases

Press releases play an important role in any media relations campaign, but some PR firms struggle to get their releases published. It often feels like press releases get thrown into the black hole of reporters’ inboxes. According to former Newsweek reporter Dan Lyons, most reporters delete “almost every single one of them without even opening them.” This would be confirmed by most reporters you talk to as they often get leads from more intimate sources.

When constructing a media strategy around major events, the goal is to maximize positive coverage. As a millennial, I’ve been conditioned to look for the most productive method that garners the fastest results. So, in looking at the role of the press release, and knowing that many reporters don’t actually read them, I sought to learn the most effective way to get a reporter’s response and the highest potential for coverage. I have learned to take into account the following factors:

  • Who is my end audience? Sometimes it is easy to forget that the end audience you want reading your information isn’t the journalist, but the consumer of news. You should focus your energies to garner coverage in a medium that will reach as many of that end audience as possible.

  • Which journalists care about this? You will have better luck securing desirable coverage if you target your pitch towards reporters who have covered similar stories in the past or whose regular beat includes the subject matter you are pushing.

  • What is the best way to reach these journalists? Today, there are so many electronic mediums of communication that blasting a press release to hundreds of reporters is no longer ideal. Use all the tools at your disposal to your advantage. Convene a teleconference of interested reporters to hear from the principals directly and have an opportunity to ask questions or put out a statement on Twitter or Facebook—which has the added benefit of reaching consumers and journalists simultaneously.

  • How can I make this most appealing to journalists? Often times, you can sweeten the deal for a journalist by offering them more than just your main story. Help them round out their reporting by offering other experts they can talk to or provide an infographic or image to accompany the story.

Additionally, the twenty-four hour news cycle has heightened the concept of “exclusive,” and most news today is broken due to personal connections and insider tips. Outlets are prioritizing exclusives in order to publish news before their competitors, offering communications professionals the opportunity to set their pieces in front of hungry journalists.

The above ways will help maximize productivity and achieve faster results using a press release. But my millennial ways have also trained me to look for innovative ways to rethink old ideas. PR firms are evolving and pitching stories in non-traditional ways—through social networks. Try tweeting at reporters. If they’re like the rest of us, they too spend their lunch break scrolling through Twitter. Lastly, try incorporating engaging materials like infographics or videos. In 2017, 74 percent of Internet traffic will be video. Why not help reporters by including video content that relates to your story?

Should you rid yourself of the black hole phenomena that is often nicknamed the press release? Not yet. Keep in mind the tactics above to ensure your press release gets read, and don’t forget to introduce new social and digital tools as they evolve and grow.

Thanks to The Herald Group for teaching me about press releases and the public relations world this summer.


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