Keeping it relevant to the readers
Let’s say your article is now newsworthy but that’s not the end of it because a newsworthy story will still be irrelevant to certain audiences. You would be wasting your time sending press releases to Gloucestershire newspapers about a small local event in Yorkshire because it would not be relevant. ‘Proximity’ is important because if the audience is in a different geographical area to the event being written about then the chances are they are not going to care and will say, so what?
Knowing your audience is vital and you must think about who will be reading your news release. If you are targeting local newspapers or local radio then it is essential you write something of interest to local communities. A “local person makes good” type of story works well. You just need to give weight to the local angle to motivate the local reader.
For example if you are a singer from Chipping Sodbury and you have just landed a contract to tour venues in China, your local press (in the Chipping Sodbury area) may well want to hear from you. Why? Because you are a local person, probably know to some of their readers, and you are doing something interesting that can engender a feel good reaction with readers thinking “that’s one of us doing that”.
In the past I’ve had amazing results playing the local card. As a partner in an entertainment agency and events management company I sent out a release, the core message of which was: local business is talent scouting local musicians and entertainers for international contracts. That attained incredible local newspaper coverage resulting in a radio interview when the story was picked up by BBC local radio. All in all, a valuable amount of advertising in return for the price of a few stamps.
Another “local” idea I’ve used is from my years as a professional musician. Each time I moved house I’d send out a local press release to the papers in the new area. My duo was not a household name but we had played on TV & radio, toured New Zealand and had residencies in The Middle East, Europe and on board ships. The feel of the release was “hey! look at these exciting people who are coming to live in your locality”. It worked every time.
If we go back to the Chipping Sodbury story, mentioned earlier, you can see it would be totally useless submitting it to local papers in Weymouth, Manchester, Perth or anywhere else but Chipping Sodbury. Likewise a local theme, when you approach national publications, will probably get a “so what” response. If you want to aim for coverage in the national newspapers you have to target a national audience, that gets much harder and you really need to use all the tips and tricks I’ve listed thus far.
Although coverage in a national daily or weekend newspapers is highly desirable there are of course easier ways to go national. Look for publications with subject matter that you can tie in with. You also need to think about the type of people you would like to reach and the type of people that would be interested in you and your services. Then draw up a list of publications they might read. If you are a harpist, string quartet, jazz band, ceilidh band, function band, DJ, etc. then one obvious channel is wedding and bride magazines.
In essence all readers have different interests and values but luckily they can be sorted into overlapping groups with divergent interests and there are always magazines, papers and periodicals that cater to each group.
Whether the publications you target are local ones or nationals interested in weddings, tourism or corporate events you need to tailor your press release to appeal to them. It would be pointless sending a release about a revolutionary new guitar pick-up to a motorcycle magazine because they would not be the slightest bit interested. Admittedly this is an extreme example to emphasis the point but it is a singularly important point.
Your writing style and subject matter must please and interest your target audience. Conversely you must target an audience and publications that will be interested in what you have to say.
The journalists and editors are the gatekeepers of the publications and they have to feel they are giving their readers the stories they want to see and read.
The correct layout for your press release is all important. The gist of the story should be evident to the journalist with just a quick glance. This can be achieved with appropriate layout and succinct headlines.
Ideally the whole press release should fit on to one side of a single sheet of A4 paper. There are times when this is not practical and a second sheet has to be employed but never use more than two sheets of paper. Journalists just don’t have the time to thumb through wads of paper and the release will probably end up pushed to one side or binned. Best practice is to use just one side of one sheet of A4 paper.
Within the layout it is important to leave room for the journalist to make notes so leaving a margin is a good idea. Spacing between lines of text is also an issue and a 1.5 to double line spacing is often recommended. However this is not necessary in emailed press releases. If you send your release by email you should use the body of the email for your story rather than sending it as an attachment (unless otherwise requested). Some journalists will not open attachments and some mail systems block them.
The information you need to covey must be ordered so that the most important details are at the top of the page with each subsequent paragraph carrying less important information. This creates a hierarchy of information running from the most important at the top to the least important at the bottom. The lower down paragraphs will contain an additional body of information in support of the more concise top paragraph.
TOP OF THE PAGE
At the very top of the page are the words Press Release followed by either “For immediate release” and the date or “Embargoed until:” and a date specifying when you want the release used.
TITLE OR HEADLINE
Above the first paragraph will be the title or headline and this again should communicate the core of the release. It should do so without puffery and be crafted to grab attention and entice the reader to read on. In length the headline should be limited to no more than ten words.
The top/first paragraph needs to encapsulate the whole of the press release in a few crisp and punchy sentences. This paragraph should contain the five W’s (as mentioned earler) and convey your complete message in around thirty words. In short, this paragraph needs to stand on its own, as a complete summarisation of the whole story.
The second paragraph should add more detail to flesh out the information found in the first paragraph and present any new but less important information.
The third paragraph is a good place for quoting people. Journalists like quotes because they add a bit of weight to the story. It can also be used for additional information.
Moving down to end of your story, you need to add a line space then write “Ends”
NOTES FOR EDITORS
Below the end of the story you can add the subheading “Notes for Editors”. In this section you give background information and facts about your company, band, event, product or service and offer photographs and/or interviews. This can be bullet pointed but again must be kept very brief and to the point.
Finally at the foot of the page place your name and contact information. Give phone numbers at which you can be reached twenty four hours a day.
- Identify your pegs
- Bolt on to bigger events and stories for more impact
- Keep the story concise and punchy
- Keep it relevant to the readers by adapting the story to fit the audience
- Make sure your story is complete by using the 5W’s rule
- Avoid puffery
- Get the layout right with additional notes to editor and contact info
This article is copyright of Al Best @ folkrootslist.co.uk
You are more than welcome to use extracts from it it as long you include a link back and credit Al Best and Folk Roots List https://www.folkrootslist.co.uk/