Even in these times of digital PR and online media the humble press release is still an essential tool when it comes to winning media coverage for brands.
But many marketers fail to understand the press release process. They don't really 'get' what a press release is or how to put it together.
If you want to improve the success rate of your press releases and turn them into a steady flow of media coverage and links for your brand it is essential to understand the difference between PR and advertising. It's a distinction which many marketers fail to fully understand and it's the main reason why many press releases fail - because they are perceived by journalists as being requests for free adverts.
For a press release to succeed and turn into a coverage and link generator for your brand it has to be much more than just a document conveying what you are up to. It has to also satisfy the media's need for a good story. That means it has to have a hook which appeals to journalists. If you get it right one single press release can bring in huge amounts of media coverage and hundreds of links. Click here to download Motive's Greatest Hits and see some examples of instances when one release scored mountains of media coverage.
The press release process can be broken down into the following steps:
Ideas for stories can come from anywhere so when brainstorming it's important to get your whole team to contribute. Don't limit yourself to simply reporting what the brand is doing. Instead think about industry trends and the wider market. To maximise coverage try to think outside of the box and don't be afraid to be quirky and unique. Again, it is worth downloading our Greatest Hits for some inspiration.
Once you have found an idea you think has potential to deliver those all important coverage and links for your brand it is time to plan. Get the team together to discuss how best to proceed, gather all of the necessary information and conduct relevant research.
When you have completed the planning and research phase it is time to draft the story. Make sure you put your idea in the first paragraph. Then include a link to your brand in the second paragraph. There are more press release writing tips here.
Editing is an important part of the writing process. Read the story back to yourself to make sure it flows well and makes sense. It can help to print it off and read it on paper rather than just on a screen. Once you're happy it's a good idea to get another pair of eyes to look over the release to double check it is as strong and as tightly written as it can be. Don't forget to include a relevant image.
The piece will then be sent for review. In an agency environment such as Motive, this means sending it across to the client but if you are working in house you will need to share it with your boss or with anyone who has been named or quoted in the release. The review is an opportunity for them to check they are happy with the content and to provide an opportunity to suggest any changes or give additional guidance. It is especially important to make sure they have approved any quotes which have been attributed to them in the press release - you are literally putting words into their mouths here so make sure they have read the quotes and are happy with them.
Following the initial review it may then be necessary to edit the release once more. The changes at this stage though will depend on the feedback from the review. In many cases the initial draft may be quickly approved without any changes whatsoever - in which case, great work! You can cut straight to step 8. In some cases though the reviewer will come back with various amendments. It's important that you go through these amendments carefully. You don't have to accept them all. Sometimes, depending on who has reviewed the piece, the feedback can actually weaken the story rather than make it stronger. This can especially be a problem if the reviewer doesn't understand the difference between PR and advertising. Remember you have done your homework already and you know why the story was pitched in this way. Don't be afraid to push back to the reviewer if you feel their suggested changes aren't helpful. Just make sure you patiently explain the reasons why. The review and edit phases of the press release process should be a conversation which leads you to an agreed outcome and a press release you are both happy with.
This final review allows the seniors in the team to be doubly sure everything is good to go and all final checks have been made. Are the links all working correctly and do they go to the right target pages? Are the images correct and appropriate?
With a fully approved and finished press release waiting to go it is time to discuss the best strategy for pitching it to the media. This step can include which titles or individual contacts to target, whether an exclusive should be offered and if the timing should coincide with any significant events or stories.
Finally it is time to send your press release out into the world. Email is the best way to send it along with a snappy pitch explaining why they should run it. But be aware that journalists receive hundreds of pitches every day. You'll need to make sure your story stands out from the crowd. There's more here about crafting a killer media pitch.
Interested journalists will often come back with requests for further information or accompanying pictures, so you'll then need to accommodate these by liaising with the relevant people. Read more about media relations.
Now the fun part - seeing the story published online and hopefully with a link or two included to your website. At Motive we spend lots of time collating coverage so our clients can see all of the amazing results achieved – this can be in national or regional newspapers online or in print, in magazines, broadcast, or other media. Find out about our PR results.
The collated reports need to be included in a comprehensive campaign report and then shared with senior people in the company or with the wider team. The reports should detail all press releases created and pitched in a given month, all media interest, all of the liaising which was conducted and finally all of the results including precious SEO boosting links, as well as a monthly round up of all other activity.
At Motive we are incredibly determined and tenacious with our pitch phase. We don't just pitch stories once. Usually we feel that a story has to go out to pitch several times before all potential for coverage has been exhausted. This means going back to stage 8 and repeating. In the past 12 months we have averaged four pitches for each of our press releases. Not all agencies are as dogged and determined when it comes to pitching. You will find plenty of PR experts who will tell you that pitching more than once will risk annoying and upsetting journalists, but we are of the belief that journalists are incredibly busy people who can miss things easily. It does no harm to remind them about a story a couple of times. The important thing is to make sure you are offering strong content in the first place. If the story is good it can stand up to multiple pitching but if the release is weak in the first place then yes it will annoy. Make sure your press release is strong to begin with. Once again, checkout our Greatest Hits for some PR inspo.
Once we’re satisfied the press release has been fully utilised, it’s back to the drawing board for our next idea and to start the process off all over again.
I hope you found this guide to the press release process helpful. If you're still baffled about why your releases aren't getting the pick-up you hoped for make sure you checkout this post - Seven reasons why your press release is being ignored.