Winning a lottery could be the best thing to happen to anyone. Seeing your name on print or your face on TV could be the next best thing. For those who manage to do this (for the right reasons, of course!), it is indeed a matter of great pride. However, getting featured in the media is through directly approaching media houses is easier said than done and can be quite intimidating to many. It is a process which has certain protocols that needs to be followed.
Having covered various news and information as a financial journalist for nearly a decade, I can vouch for this structure. This information comes from being an observer on the other side of the fence.
So let’s get started on what really is a press release and what is the purpose of a press reealse.
A press release is information or news about yourself or your organization or a particular event handed out to the press for public dissemination or publishing.
However, just like you, everyone else wants to get noticed too. In order to get noticed by the fourth estate, you have to ensure your information is worth publishing. A solid effective press release is half the battle won!
A news article on your company or product can give you a unique competitive advantage. You not only find yourself a spot in print but also on the Google News results or Google pages. This automatically upgrades you on your Search Engine Optimisation ranks as well.
PRESS RELEASE FORMAT
The fourth estate is the conduit between the public and the newsmakers. But, gone are the days when only the most important news made it to the daily pages in the media. With the opening up of the media sector and the mushrooming of news media, competition within the media is quite cut-throat. A few minutes could make or break a news channel or agency’s shining glory.
So, if you want to get featured in the media, it would be quite easy to simply outsource your external communications to a public relations firm. A public relations firm is a company that specialises in disseminating information about a company through editorial coverage. There are a number of PR companies out there which are good and will take care of the press release distribution and your information till the end user. However, if you intent to craft a press release yourself a few pointers could help you in reaching out to the media. Even if you do hire a PR company, it’s always a good idea to be aware of how to deal with the media.
During my stint in the newsroom, I’ve seen a number of press releases land in my inbox. However, not all of them get coverage and a lot of it has to do with their structure. Remember, journalists are dealing with not just limited space in newspapers and television slots, but also reducing attention spans. So here are a few pointers on the basic format of a press release, which if followed will make for a great press release
- NEWSWORTHY ENOUGH
Is there a formidable development within your company that is worthy of being published. Ask yourself this question every time you frame a press release. A crisis or a accident definitely warrants coverage. But, even if you are writing a press release for an event or just a product launch, elucidate what is it that makes your product stand out compared with your competition. Maybe it’s a new technology, maybe it a new design, a new venture, a never-before-seen facet of a product.
Whatever your press release is about, try to make it stand apart from the rest. Once you have figured out the challenging task of what the crux of the story is, next comes covering all aspects of your information so that there is very little spade work left for the media to do.
- HEADLINES COULD MAKE OR BREAK YOUR STORY -. Just like you, everyone out there wants to get featured in print and reels. In addition there are other important events unfolding in national interest which definitely warrant coverage. Why would a journalist open your mail? The only simple answer to that is an eye-grabbing headline. Invest your time in headlines and you will be pleasantly surprised with the payoffs. Putting your headline in all caps and bold does not ensure that emails get opened. A headline which packs all the information smartly within a few words should do the trick. Unfortunately this is an art that can be mastered only with time.
- PASTE YOUR STORY ON THE EMAIL BODY: Let’s say you made it till here and your press release has been clicked on. A lot of corporates attach the actual press release on a word or a PDF document. This leaves your press release to rely heavily on technology. And this is not always a good idea. The more you make the life of a journalist easier, the more likely he or she is likely to view your content with a pleasant state of mind.
- FIRST IMPRESSIONS IN THE FIRST PARA: For a journalist the most important questions that need to be answerer are the 5Ws and 1H – What, When, Where, Who, Why and How. Try to pack the answers to their queries in the first paragraph itself. If you manage to do this, there is very little work left for them to do.
- NO FRILLS ATTACHED – Remember your press release is a piece of information for the media. Avoid turning it into an advertisement. No frills, no ads and no unnecessary promotion is the best approach to take when writing a press release. A smart journalist will not really fall for it and tactfully avoid such traps.
- QUOTE UNQUOTE – Do remember to add a few quotes of company officials to add a perspective. However, avoid being repetitive and add a new angle or information through these quotes. Also, avoid long-winding wordy quotes as these may automatically not get taken. If the company is approachable to talk further, journalists would prefer calling them up individually and having their own quote. If the senior official is available for comment, do mention this to the journalists.
- WHOM TO CONTACT – It is of utmost important to mention a couple if not more contact numbers at the bottom of the press release. Almost a chunk of the media will have follow up queries and therefore this step should be done without fail.
- GET FAMILIAR WITH THE JOURNALIST FRATERNITY – Writing a press release is just one part of the job but reaching out to the media is the other part. It’s best to identify reporters or journalists who track news from your particular area of interest. That way you have only a concentrated number of email ids or people that you have to keep a tab on. There is a higher likelihood of your content being picked up if you simply know the right people to contact.
- A ROCKING BOILERPLATE: A boilerplate is a few lines about the company’s background which is found at the end of the press release. This is an extremely useful part of the release for a journalist as he or she incorporates it for context in their stories. The paragraph can start with what the company does. Make sure to add all awards, accolades, and achievements of the company in this description. Appropriate adjectives will also help in subtly promoting your company.
A few great boilerplate examples are:
“Infosys is a global leader in next-generation digital services and consulting. We enable clients in 46 countries to navigate their digital transformation. With nearly four decades of experience in managing the systems and workings of global enterprises, we expertly steer our clients through their digital journey. We do it by enabling the enterprise with an AI-powered core that helps prioritize the execution of change. We also empower the business with agile digital at scale to deliver unprecedented levels of performance and customer delight. Our always-on learning agenda drives their continuous improvement through building and transferring digital skills, expertise, and ideas from our innovation ecosystem.”
Glenmark Pharmaceuticals Ltd. (GPL) is a global research-led pharmaceutical company with presence across Generics, Specialty and OTC business with operations in over 50 countries. Glenmark’s key therapy focus areas globally are respiratory, dermatology and oncology. It is ranked among the top 80 Pharma & Biotech companies of the world in terms of revenue (SCRIP 100 Rankings published in the year 2019). The company has been listed in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI), under the category of emerging markets for the third consecutive year in a row. DJSI is one of the world’s most respected and widely accepted sustainability benchmarks globally with only the top ranked companies in terms of Corporate Sustainability within each industry are featured in the index.
Dish TV India Limited is India’s leading direct-to-home (DTH) Company and owns multiple individual brands like Dish TV, Zing and d2h under its umbrella. The company benefits from multiple satellite platforms including SES-8, GSAT-15 and ST-2 and has a bandwidth capacity of 1188 MHz, the largest held by any DTH player in the country. Dish TV India Limited has on its platform more than 719 channels & services including 31 audio channels and 76 HD channels & services. The Company has a vast distribution network of over 3,600 distributors & around 352,000 dealers that span across 9,400 towns in the country. Dish TV India Limited is connected with its pan-India customer base through call-centres that are spread across 22 cities and are equipped to handle customer queries 24X7 in 12 different languages.
MEDIA COVERAGE AND PRESS RELEASE DISTRIBUTION
Once you have the basic format of the press release in place, its important to complete the cycle of information dissemination. Press release dissemination is a little different from information dissemination on social media that we have discussed. We have jotted down a few noteworthy points to remember when disseminating information to the media:
- TREAT ALL AS ONE, WITHOUT DISTINCTION: The journalist fraternity is a big one. There are all sorts of reporters out there from various media and publications – some well known and some not so well known. When a communications official of a company treats a handful of journalists with specialised treatment, it’s a big put off for the rest. This can occasionally be seen at press conferences and news events where the big banner newspapers and the high flying television studios are given a red carpet welcome, whereas the other watch on as a mere spectator.
- JOURNALISTS ARE HUMAN TOO: There are may cub reporters who are fresh and trying to dig their heels on the ground, some journalists who ask a lot of questions, while some may not turn up at all. The important thing is to deal with journalists patiently. Remember they are humans first and are earning a livelihood. Asking questions is their job and they have to do it to understand it for public dissemination. This also drastically reduces the chances of an error.
- PRESS RELEASE SUBMISSION – This is a rather recent development adopted by companies to increase on-page SEO. It involves writing about an event or news about a particular thing and submitting it to public relations companies. This automatically drives traffic to their website. The content ideally should be SEO optimised for best results. Business Wire India is one such site. We show you eight effective ways to format a solid press release to ensure maximum reach to the media and your audience at large. Just like writing a newsletter, a good press release is a powerful too to gain visibility.
- TO GIFT OR NOT TO GIFT? – Some believe offering gifts to journalists may fetch them newsprint space. This may be true for a few but doesn’t hold water for a majority. In fact a number of media houses bar journalists from accepting gifts. Even at press conferences, some companies give expensive gifts to all journalists covering the event. While this may please some journalists, it does not guarantee coverage.
The only thing that guarantees coverage is good solid content worthy of being printed and the above steps and pointers could aid you in this objective. Let me know if you attempted to craft a press release and if you managed to get coverage for your information.