While word-of-mouth and ad campaigns are great ways to promote your business, there’s something to be said for the classic method of a good old-fashioned press release. It may seem outdated (who reads newspapers anymore?) but you’d be surprised by the results (quite a few people still do!).
Turns out, there’s still a vibrant publishing market, albeit largely digital. And while some aspects of the press are bygones, the core strategy persists: You pitch an idea to a journalist or editor, and if they like it, your content gets in front of all of their readers. In other words, It’s worth it to get your product or service covered in a publication. You’ll likely reach new audiences, and as the saying goes, there’s no such thing as bad press.
Whatever Happened to Press Releases?
It used to be that companies issued press releases whenever they wanted to get their news into publications — and indeed, many of them still send out releases. You’ve probably seen press releases posted on aggregator sites such as Futurity or PRNewswire, where they double as news articles. However, the original purpose of a press release was to help news desk editors decide whether or not to cover a story, then provide them with the basic information they needed to do so.
That’s why press releases typically follow the 5 W’s format:
- Who: The name and description of the company or person doing the Thing.
- What: What the Thing is: an event, product release, etc.
- When: The date(s) the Thing is happening, due by, etc.
- Where: If applicable, the location, venue, or target area for the Thing.
- Why: Why the editor should give a damn about the Thing.
Press releases also provide instructions to the publisher. For example, they might forbid the editor from releasing the story before a certain date, and they often include instructions for reporters to get into touch with someone representing the Who.
However, news publishers have changed a lot. Rather than a beleaguered editor sifting through a pile of press releases, modern media outlets often have a team of content creators who are responsible for pushing out stories on multiple channels. Many publications don’t even have a “press” anymore: They’re entirely digital.
For those reasons, the term “press release” has been replaced by the more era-appropriate “news release,” or often just “media release.” These releases can be used to pitch a story, but they often pull double-duty as a piece of content that editors can quickly pump into their docket.
That means that the standard press release format is dying in favor of a story-driven media release that can be “plug and play.” And if editors are going to assign one of their reporters to the story, the release is something that can be cobbled together with new content.
What does all this mean for you? It means that you might need to rethink your PR strategy if you want good coverage in news publications. It’s time to refresh your press releases.
What is a Media Release?
If you’re currently self-publishing content as part of your marketing strategy, you’re probably familiar with the core components of a good story. It needs a strong hook, a compelling flow, and a powerful takeaway. The same is true for media releases.
A typical press release is essentially a list of key points, meant to be quickly surveyed by an editor. It might follow this structure:
- Lede: The introductory paragraph summarizing the 5 W’s.
- Body: Following the Inverted Pyramid format, in which the most newsworthy information is written first, the content expands upon the 5 W’s.
- Boilerplate: A standard description of the Who appears at the bottom.
A media release still uses these principles, but aims to be more readable — something that could easily be published as-is. It also plays with the lede about to incorporate a strong hook and introduce the 5 W’s as components of a story:
- Lede/Hook: Something of interest to the reader/editor, plus a tease about the Thing.
- Body: While the inverted pyramid might be used, media releases often follow a story format. For example, rather than Why, What, Who, and When/Where, which generally follows the Inverted Pyramid, a story-oriented release might go: Who, What, Why, When/Where. Throughout the Body, quotes from the Who enhance the text and give a writer something to pull from.
- Boilerplate: This can still be included, but is primarily used if the person pitching is going to receive a byline.
Putting Together a Media Kit
If you really want good coverage of your Thing, though, a media release alone won’t cut it. Publishers are pressured to constantly produce and release content, and they often don’t have time to research and write. Make it easier for them with a media kit.
A media kit comprises a set of content that a reporter or writer can use to ensure that your story is told accurately and effectively across platforms. They may need images, bullet points, and other web-friendly content, as well as the core points that they should help. Essentially, you’re giving them a skeletal structure for how your story should be covered.
Below, we’ll discuss what artists, filmmakers, teachers, solopreneurs, etc should put in their media kit. If you’re a company, head on over to our sister site Lyra Creative Studios for specialized advice.
The art of pitching editors is a topic for another blog, but for now, it suffices to say that your pitch and all components of your kit should be aligned in their tone, voice, messaging, and most importantly, the newsworthiness of it all.
When Do I Send a Media Kit?
The golden rule of pitching to the media is to make it newsworthy. No one will cover a product you released a year ago or an event that happened last December. Editors don’t care if you recently hired two new people — no matter how awesome they are — or if you just rewrote your mission statement.
That said, some developments are worth sharing. If your new hires happen to be refugees who just overcame homelessness and now have transformed your production line, that’s a compelling human interest story. If your last event was so successful that you’re doing it again this year and have booked a local celebrity as your keynote speaker, make that your pitch.
If you’ve never worked with a publisher before, send them a full media kit at least four weeks before the When. For bigger Things, an even longer timeline might be appropriate. If a publisher has previously written about you, send them an abbreviated kit that acknowledges their previous coverage, highlights any changes, and emphasizes the news hook.
What Should My Media Kit Contain?
While your media release constitutes the bulk of the content, your kit includes all the goodies that reporters need to get your story out there:
Media Release: The news-oriented, story-driven piece that explains why the reader should care.
Credentials: A bulleted list of your credentials: any relevant education, certification, awards, etc. Keep it focused on the topic at hand.
Personal Description/Mission Statement: A concise summary of your experience and reasons for doing the Thing.
Professional Images: A headshot and/or professional shot of you doing the Thing.
Social Proof: Selected testimonials and/or links to your social media platforms to show that people care about your personal brand.
Other Press Coverage: A list of relevant articles that have already been published about you.
This may seem like a lot to send someone, and it is. That’s why your most important tool in the media kit isn’t the content of the kit, but your pitch email. As with any sort of pitching, personalize the message and make it relevant to the recipient. Try to reach out to editors and writers who have tended to cover topics related to your Thing. You can even acknowledge their previous work in your pitch.
How Do I Ensure That They Cover My Story?
Short answer: You can’t. Long answer: You can boost your chances by crafting a well-written media kit that gives editors and reporters all the information they need to quickly and effectively cover your story. Above all else, ensure that you’ve got a strong Why driving your kit. In an information-saturated world, that’s what people want to know most: Why should they care?
Need help with your media kit? Free Ring Circus can help. We have expertise in journalism and PR, so we know what editors and reporters are looking for. Reach out today and we’ll help you assemble a compelling, branded media kit that gets your story heard!
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