In online marketing if we overlook the simple power of press releases we lose out big time.
A press release that even slightly grips the imagination of journalists can have dozens or hundreds of quality backlinks to your site in a week, and get you more online publicity than you’ll know what to do with.
But how do we get busy journalists on our side?
What Press Releases Does a Journalist Want
Join me if you will on a typical day in my life a few years back when I worked as a full time senior-journalist for a financial magazine in London.
When I spent all day filtering press releases, sifting for something to put online – and what I was thinking while I did it. See why I chose to publish your one or why I chose to bin it.
I turn up to work early, calling out greetings and jokes across the open plan office floor we share with four other magazines, a mostly calm but occasional din of shouting reporters and salesmen. Plopping down on my seat, I flick on my Mac and begin to gather my thoughts and tasks for the day – perhaps a little groggily after drinks with other journalists and industry contacts the evening before.
My editor throws a few extra tasks my way. A new industry event that needs covering – find an angle, how does it relate to us, get a solid quote. In the next hour please.
My 4 Basic Tasks For The Day:
One – progress on 5 large feature pieces I’m prepping for the next magazine edition.
Two – scan all competitors and general news channels. Know everything that’s newsworthy today.
Three – get out and have coffees and lunches with bankers and journalists, building contacts and keeping up to date.
And most important, four – find three or four great stories to post online. And find them fast. One or two straight away. The other two throughout the day.
So with all that on my mind, as I sip my Americano and open my email, sifting through the 10, 20 or 30 press releases that came in overnight; what am I thinking? What am I looking for?
Journalists Are Human
Before I tell you exactly what I wanted to see, I described my morning like this because we all have to remember that journalists are human. They’re overworked, busy, and they respond to stories and news just like anyone does. They just want to do a good job, for their boss to be happy, and for their day to go easier, that’s all. Like all of us.
There’s a kind of mysticism surrounding journalists (which journalists actually love and promote – it’s a job most do for recognition rather than pay) that they have a kind of sophistication above that of normal people. An air of understanding and high judgment.
But that’s rubbish. They’re just the same as you and I.
And if we bear in mind that when we send out our next press release we can help an overworked reporter make their day slightly easier and get to lunch slightly faster, then we’ll start writing releases that get opened, liked and posted online.
The 3 Things Every Journalist Needs To See In A Press Release:
Every journalist, no matter what their industry, is looking for 3 things:
- Something TOPICAL
- Something that GRABS MY EMOTIONS
- Something ALREADY WELL-WRITTEN
You remember when my editor came over and told me to find something linked to this morning’s or yesterday’s news fast? That is my number one priority. To find a new or fresh angle – something related thematically to the big topic everyone’s talking about!
The beauty of this is that we as online marketers can all find elegant and simple ways to link in our story, our product, our service, our book, our new deal, with the big news.
And it’s surprisingly simple to do so.
Some Live Examples
I’m glancing at the BBC and CNN news right now. One top story is there’s a missing Malaysian passenger jet.
There are many potential related themes to this that you could link to your service. Any safety-related product or service. Do you have any product related to technology safety? To communication software in any form? Or safe travel? Insurance-related services?
Another angle is the families are searching for loved ones – do you offer a service related to family Counselling? If you sent out a press release with that topic in the title, you would get interest.
Search for news in your industry or sector
If you’re in finance, find a story to link into finance. For example the Ukrainan Crisis. Your press release title: Opportunistic Investing in Ukrainian Companies Helps The Country in Crisis. Or Now is Time to Buy in Ukraine, says London Financial Advisor. And the body of the press release leads into your new service update.
In technology, there’s a story about an anonymous social network App causing trouble in schools – so many angles here! If you have Any product related to children or education, you can link it in. Or to technology, apps, communication-products.
I promise you, right at this moment thousands of journalists are trying to find an interesting story that is somehow related to this App causing trouble in schools story, from any angle. So help them out!
And an always easy one is holidays and seasons – investigate local ones in different regions, cities and countries. And give your news a holiday-slant.
Your Action Plan
So, browse the news, see the big stories in your sector, choose one and find a way to link it to what you’re promoting.
Email it to the journalist; he sees it stand out from among all the generic, bland press releases, opens it. He’s delighted. Maybe calls you, maybe not. Does 20 minutes of research. Posts it and goes to lunch early. Boom – publicity and possibly one very high-quality backlinks.
2. GRAB MY ATTENTION
Journalists are human, just like you and I. The only difference is that they develop an intuitive understanding of what readers like and respond to.
So when I used to see a header that grabbed my emotions and attention, I got excited because I knew that it will have the same effect on my readers. I will open that email.
Now it’s true we can’t be all hyped up, excited adjectives in a press release. It’s not a sales page.
But we can have a think about what’s exciting about this story from an outside perspective.
And put the best part in the headline at least. State the facts, but state them using the most interesting angle for your target audience – the journalist, and their reader. Be humanistic, and chose the words that elicit emotion.
Use Emotive Words
I recently wrote a press release for an incredible new system for fire protection, they’d been installed in a school. So without hype I put ‘school’ ‘fire’ ‘safety’ at the start of the title. Those are emotion words. Rather than your company name, which the journalist may not know yet.
Also, I briefly scanned the news and unfortunately in one city there has been a school fire this week. So do you think the journalists from there will want to publish that story? Yes they will!
Just stating your company did this or that thing may not be all that interesting for someone else. Talk about the significance of that thing, in relation to another big thing that happened this week. Just that slight change in angle will make a world of difference.
Our job is to at least try to make it sound interesting for people who aren’t working in our company – who have nothing to do with us. Who have never heard of us. Try to show them how it’s interesting and relevant to their lives and businesses. That’s the journalist’s job too, so let’s help them out.
3. ALREADY WELL-WRITTEN
I shouldn’t really tell you this one. It’s a bit cheeky.
But I really loved it when I got press releases like this, and I know most other journalists do too. The ones that are already structured like an article saved me so, so much time.
The ones with a great headline, an excellent hook (the opening sentence). A strong quote two or three paragraphs down, and another at the bottom. At the end, a great link to wider news and impacts and related themes.
A story made to taste good as possible right from the first bite. Already cooked and ready to eat.
Please, Save Us The Work
The reason journalists love press releases written like this is because a press release written the normal, rather bland, way might have a good story in it. But we have dig for it.
We have to dissemble it, find out the story for ourselves, write it more compellingly. Call someone up for a good quote. Research to find out how it relates to wider events and topical news. It’s a lot of time and effort we’d rather be spending working on our larger articles and getting other stuff done.
The Journalist Is Your Friend and Marketing Partner
So next time you write a press release just remember the busy, coffee-sipping journalist on the other end of that email when you hit ‘send’.
Remember you’re writing just to one person, you’re not ‘spreading it all over the web’. You’re only writing it for one person – that reporter at his or her desk. Who wants your help.
Work with them, not against them. And you’ll get online every time.
By Marek Sanders, copywriter and ex-senior financial journalist. For press releases that get published, website copywriting, or a free copy of his guide Traffic Conversion Secrets, go to www.MarekSanders.com