Last month, we introduced you to the basics of press releases in "The Cardinal Rules Of Creating A Press Release." This month, we're continuing the PR lesson. Learn how to create a PR photo in "Adding A Photo To Your Press Release;" in "PR Protocol," we'll help you pitch your story with proper etiquette.
Just because you've written--or at least think you've written-a press release worthy of a Pulitzer Prize, don't assume you'll get front page coverage. In fact, don't assume you'll get any coverage at all unless you pay attention to the following rules of PR etiquette:
1. Make sure the publications you're targeting with your press release are tailor-made for your product or service.
2. Along those same lines, make sure you pitch to the appropriate person. If you've got a tech-related release regarding a Web product you've created, you obviously don't want to send it to the Arts & Entertainment editor. Similarly, don't send releases to editorial assistants because you believe they have more time to answer mail. This is a wasted effort, since the pitch will ultimately have to be passed on to another reporter or editor with more decision-making power.
3. Reporters and editors are busy and almost always on deadline so a PR phone call can be quite interrupting. These days, most editors appreciate pitches in the form of an e-mail, which they can read when they're not busy. In fact, it might sound callous, but an e-mail actually makes a reporter much more inclined to like your idea--especially if you use the subject line to your advantage. Rather than "PR pitch," try something more thought-provoking and tailored to your business.
Double-check your e-mail contact list for repeat names. If you e-mail the same release repeatedly-even if by mistake--it looks unprofessional and editors will treat the release like spam, hitting the "delete" button every time. (This rule also applies to snail mail lists: Receiving several envelopes with the same release appears even more wasteful and unprofessional.)
4. Knowing that reporters and editors are normally working on deadline, respect that deadline when you e-mail a pitch and follow up with a phone call. In most cases, if you're pitching to a weekly publication, don't call on Thursday. Not only will a phone call be interrupting, a reporter might think you have no regard for his or her time. Monthly publications vary, but when in doubt, try to follow up early in the week. And always say something like, "I realize you're busy and on deadline, so I won't take up too much of your time."
5. Finally, hone your verbal pitch so that when you do get a reporter on the line, you can enthusiastically and succinctly--say, two minutes or less--get your point across before the line goes dead.
Trust us, if you abide by these rules, your integrity will increase tremendously among journalists.
Julia Miller is a Los Angeles-based writer who specializes in business and marketing. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.