Q: I've been sending out a lot of press releases to local newspapers and magazines, but so far, no one has called me back. What could I be doing wrong, or what can I do to increase the probability of getting something published?
A: First of all, don't assume you've failed if you haven't heard anything from those you submitted to. I've seen stories published in major publications months after the press releases were initially submitted. If you truly feel nothing has happened, try again with a new newsworthy angle for the readership of the publication.
There are two primary things to consider when sending out a press release. One is who the press release is being sent to, and the other is how newsworthy the press release is. The job of an editor is to produce a publication that will please its readership. If the readership wants news, your press release should be newsworthy. If the readership wants relevancy to a particular subject or topic, your release should be the same. In each case, put yourself in the editor's shoes and write to please the audience.
Editors typically get bombarded with press releases, especially with today's electronic communication. Simply writing a standard press release from a template will not motivate journalists and editors to line up to publish your information. If the item is not newsworthy or doesn't grab their attention quickly, the release will literally be trashed.
Find a new angle. Provide journalists with sizzle that relates to the beats they cover. Give them something they can use to attract and build their readership. Unless you are Jack Welch or Bill Gates providing big news from big players, you must create an angle.
Be creative in the way your release is presented. Put some major thought behind the news you are communicating. Use flair with your written communication. Avoid buzz words; editors generally always edit the release to fit the audience's needs. Make the release attention-getting to the point where the editor will keep on reading. This takes some thought and planning but can be done. Don't let your release get buried among all the other releases the editor receives.
One approach I've used and seen recently that stands out and works is the Q&A approach. For example: Information Security at the Forefront of Business: An Interview with Industry Expert Michael Bruck. Questions are asked that are newsworthy, and the answers are communicated by the company president. Editors like hearing from experts, and they like interviews on a timely topic. It was different. It had flair. It served the readership.
The other thing to consider is how you approach an editor. Did you blast-e-mail, blast-fax, mail or call to communicate your information? What works well depends on the editors' requirements and desires.
A survey of more than 100 newspaper editors found their most common criticism of press releases was "Sounds like promotion." You need to use the same objective tone about your business that a journalist would use. Editors hate promotion; they love news. If you try to sneak promotion through, you will get caught. Take the time to develop the news angle. Feed them an angle on your business that their particular audience will perceive as news, entertainment or useful information.
TV goes for the masses. Radio hits a particular demographic crowd by the nature of their format. Specialty magazines hit the specialized audience. Each one of these media is competing for the audience's space and time. Thinking about how your news affects each of these audiences will help you decide where to send your release.
Above all, keep trying. While one publication may have no interest in covering your story, another might. Editors are always-and I mean always-looking for news; it's often just a matter of timing. Get to the point, don't ramble, and make sure you communicate why your news is important.
Alfred J. Lautenslager is an award-winning marketing and PR consultant, direct-mail promotion specialist, principle of marketing consulting firm Marketing Now, and president and owner of The Ink Well, a commercial printing and mailing company in Wheaton, Illinois. Visit his Web sites at http://www.market-for-profits.com and http://www.1-800-inkwell.com, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.