I’m often asked by small business owners and entrepreneurs: “When I want a news outlet or publication to include me in a story, I should send them a news release, right?”
It certainly depends on the situation, but my answer is often, “No. Skip it.” And here’s why: A news release (a.k.a., a press release) is for news suitable for mass distribution. If you have an announcement to make that you think can stand on its own either as a news story or as a topic that will be searched for online (by consumers as well as the media), then a news release is a great option. For advice on giving your news releases a necessary face lift, however, refer back to Dana Marruffo’s post Wanted Alive: The Press Release Is NOT Dead.
For small businesses, however, new releases (especially on their own) are often ineffective. Here are some situations in which that’s true.
- Pitching a topic: You clearly have a specific news outlet or publication in mind and perhaps (even better) a specific section/segment within that outlet you believe fits your topic perfectly.
- Pitching a contributed article: You’d like to write and contribute an article yourself in an industry publication.
- Responding: You are directly responding to a topic that a specific news outlet or publication reported on, perhaps with additional information the outlet’s readers might want to know or a differing opinion you’d like to see represented.
When pitching a topic or contributed article to a specific media outlet, search that outlet’s website for instructions. These instructions are often called “submission guidelines,” “author guidelines,” or can otherwise be found on the “contact us” page. Here are examples from Digital Energy Journal and Security Management; both are trade industry publications I’ve successfully pitched in the past.
If no guidelines are available, a targeted email is usually a great place to start (often called a ‘query’ when referring to contributed articles). Address the specific contact by name (i.e., Ms. Sanchez) and include 3-4 sentences (perhaps bulleted points) on what you’re pitching and where in the outlet you see it fitting. Add links to additional information, whether that be a news release posted to your site (now that you’ve framed it correctly), a blog post you wrote on the subject or an “about us” or bio page on your site with more information about your credentials. Then, close with an offer to provide more information, submit a contributed article or whatever your goal may be. Cut right to the chase: brevity is key.
One of the biggest pleas reporters have to those pitching them is, “Just tell me what I need to know!” Therefore, a critical mistake business owners make is to over generalize and dilute their intent when pitching. Ironically, that’s what often happens when a news release is sent in place of a targeted pitch. Find out how EACH reporter or editor wants to be pitched, and pitch them: specifically and deliberately, as one professional to another.