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In general PRs and journalists have a decent working relationship, or at least I like to think we do.

But new research by Pressfeed highlights the fact that we have differing opinions over what should be included in a press release.

Almost half (45%) of the PRs polled said that visual elements with a news story are not important at all to journalists, while 39% said it wasn’t necessary to add images, videos or graphics to a news release.

But 80% of the journalists included in the survey said it was important or very important to have access to photographs and visual images and 75% wanted video content.

We get hundreds of press releases at Econsultancy, some good, some not so good. 

So here’s 11 friendly tips on how PRs can make their press releases more effective, and more likely to be opened and read...

1. Spelling!

It’s an obvious one, but you’d be amazed at the number of press releases we get through with spelling mistakes in the subject line. A favourite of mine was one about ‘Ryaniar’.

We’re all guilty of spelling errors at some point in time, but a mistake in the subject line makes you look like an amateur. 

2. Get to the point

When sifting through press releases of a morning I don’t have time to read loads of preamble, so get to the point in the first paragraph.

If your first two paragraphs go on about how your client is a ‘leading cloud computing software supplier’ your audience will quickly lose interest and dispatch your email to the recycling bin.

More often than not your client isn’t the story, the research they’ve commissioned is, so lead with juicy stats rather than the client’s biography.

3. Keep it short

Even if your report is groundbreaking stuff, I don’t want to read a massive email listing every single detail.

Try to limit the email to four paragraphs, maybe five at a push, and use bullet points to make the interesting stats easier to read.

4. Send me the report

If you’re sending out a press release to promote a new piece of research then make sure to attach the report or include a link to it.

It’s extremely frustrating and a waste of time having to go back to a PR to request a copy of the report. And the same goes for charts and images - if you have them, send them through.

Journalists and bloggers are generally up against the clock so we don’t want to waste time by going back and forth for content that you’ve hinted at in your press release.

5. Know your publications

As far as I’m aware we’ve never published a client-win at Econsultancy and a quick scan through our blog would tell you that. Yet I still get sent several of them a day.

While it may seem like a good idea to send press releases to as many publications and blogs as possible in order to ensure coverage, in reality it is likely to severely undermine your reputation if you keep sending out irrelevant content.

6. ‘Big News’ is subjective

What is big news to one person is irrelevant spam to most other people. Think hard before including any terms like ‘exciting news’ or ‘big news’ in the subject line.

7. Keep the headline short

Think about how the subject line will look to the recipient. Email clients have a limited amount of visible space, so keep it concise otherwise half the headline will get chopped off.

8. Bear in mind that people will be reading it on mobile

Smartphones are nothing new, so try to take into account the fact that most journalists check their emails on a mobile device.

This makes concise writing and punchy headlines even more important.

9. DON’T USE CAPS

Nothing says “I’m spam, send me to the recycle bin” quite like a shouty, capped up headline. And the same goes for exclamation marks!!!!

Caps make the subject line difficult to read and it looks unprofessional. Do you cap up emails to clients? I hope not. So why do it in a press release?

10. Avoid jargon

When writing a blog post time is of the essence, so I don’t want to spend ages translating press releases into plain English.

We have a list of banned words for the Econsultancy blog and if I had my way ‘learnings’, ‘reaching out’ and ‘thought leader’ would be at the top of it.

11. The personal touch counts

There’s a huge amount to be said for building a relationship with bloggers and journalists and personalising emails. If a press release is obviously just part of a massive mail merge then it's unlikely to get read.

But more importantly, if I recognise the name of the sender and have had some contact with them outside of simply being included on a press release list then I’m far more likely to open their emails.

And this isn’t a plea for free lunches – it can be as simple as making the occasional phone call or a few @mentions on Twitter.

Image taken from Lisah & Jerry Silfwer's Flickr stream

David Moth

Published 20 August, 2012 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

1679 more posts from this author

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Paul Huggett

It amazes me some of the generic press releases that land in my inbox. Its almost the same as poor quality sales post landing on my door mat. I'd like to think that companies churning these out check there sydication rates and see they are low, but I suspect not.

The starting golden rule for me has always been answering two questions in any content writing - including press releases.

1. Do I find this interesting?
2. Am I improving someone's life with this information?

If the answer to either of these is 'No', then don't release it and start over.

about 4 years ago

Adam Cranfield

Adam Cranfield, Chief Marketing Officer at Mynewsdesk

Nice list David. 1-10 are absolutely essential, but I particularly like number 11 - good PR is all about building relationships.

So what is your view on the importance of images and video in news releases? Do you find they help to tell (and sell) the story?

How many of the releases received by Econsultancy include multimedia elements?

Another thing that journalists and bloggers find useful is the inclusion of 'related items' - ie materials the company has previously published that are are relevant to the release. Mynewsdesk enables related items to be easily included with every release. (I work for Mynewsdesk, the world's biggest provider of online newsrooms.) This makes it easy for the journalist to quickly get up to speed with the background to the story.

Good to see Econsultancy focusing on PR a fair bit now!

Cheers
Adam
Digital Marcoms @ Mynewsdesk

about 4 years ago

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Anna Pedroza, Director at Pedroza Communications

Another useful piece by eConsultancy about PR, great to see this focus. I particularly agree with your last point about personal relationships.

In terms of sending images and video I'm surprised that PRs don't do this but it may be that they don't want to chew up mailboxes.

How do you feel Twitter plays into all of this? Do you want to hear about news stories from PRs via Twitter?

Thanks

Anna
@annapedroza

about 4 years ago

Adam Cranfield

Adam Cranfield, Chief Marketing Officer at Mynewsdesk

Anna - the way Mynewsdesk does it, the video and images you 'attach' don't take up any space in the inbox, as they are all hosted on the web. Small preview images are shown in the email and the recipient can click through to get the hi-res media. Neat eh?

As for Twitter, it's a fantastic way to engage journalists directly, if you use it wisely. It's also great for seeing what a journo is researching or interested in *right now*.

about 4 years ago

David Moth

David Moth, Editor & Head of Social at EconsultancyStaff

@Adam, I think including images and videos is very important. It might not make the difference between whether a story gets published or not, but it makes sense to send across all the press materials you have to make the reporters life easier. As mentioned, it's frustrating having to go back and ask for videos and images as it wastes time!

@Anna, personally I think Twitter is a great tool for building relationships but isn't so great for sending news stories. It might be ok to alert people to the occasional story on Twitter, but I would soon think about cancelling my account if I started getting hundreds of press releases in the form of @mentions ;)

about 4 years ago

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Mike B

Regarding point 10, another jargon term to add to your banned list: "Serial entrepreneur."
It's right up there with "thought leader."

about 4 years ago

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Joan Stewart, The Publicity Hound

These tips assume that we are writing press releases primarily for journalists. We shouldn't be.

We should be writing them primarily for consumers who can find the releases online through the search engines. These consumer-oriented releases don't even have to be newsy! They can include a call to action and links to sales pages at our website.

If we're announcing minor news like new employees, awards or whatever, send a press release to journalists. But don't expect a press release for a major story to get their attention.

That's the lazy way. Send a customized pitch to each blogger or media outlet and include a link to the press release. Or just send the pitch.

about 4 years ago

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Edward Smith

Thanks, great list, Edward Smith.

about 4 years ago

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