How to Use Press Releases to Have the Media Contact You and Get Free Publicity in Newspapers and Magazines, or Free Media Coverage on the Radio

Press releases (you can also call them news releases) are a great tool for getting media coverage--my favorite kind of free publicity--and they should be part of every PR strategy. The majority of press releases go straight into the recycle bin--or simply get lost in the deluge of press materials. And some of the reason is that an amazing number of news releases break some of the basic rules.

So be a successful media contact and get the free publicity. Set your news releases apart from the crowd--do it right! That, along with proper follow up, will boost your odds significantly.

The crucial part is not so much in the structure of the release, but in the ingredients. Just as when you bake a cake, it needs flour, eggs, flavoring agents, and sweetener--but you can assemble them in thousands of different permutations within that basic "cake structure"

So here's what you should have in your computer cupboard when sending a press release to try to get mentioned in newspaper and magazine articles, or to get free airtime on the radio:

  1. A news hook--something to pin the story on that makes people want to read past the first couple of lines. You are competing with a huge number of inputs so yours has to be memorable. Otherwise--you get skipped over and someone else gets the free publicity.
  2. An understanding of who's reading the news release and what they're looking for, i.e., one size definitely does *not* fit all. This is why I always ask my press release clients who will be reading it. Some audiences want something sexy or overdramatic, others want just the facts, others want a local or niche angle.
  3. The right list to send it to, preferably with individual editors'/reporters' names, recently verified, who write the kinds of newspaper and magazine articles you're aiming at in your free publicity campaign.
  4. Full contact info! The best release in the world is useless if the reporter doesn't have the tools to follow up. Likewise, complete info about the product or event (including ordering information, if appropriate)
  5. A format that's accessible to the news media. This means good writing. Ideally, you'll see your exact words in print, in newspaper and magazine articles. It also means using only one side of the page, making it easy to read, and making sure it's addressed to the right department (at the right fax number or e-mail address).
Other things are nice to have, but not essential: some sort of third-party validation, for example, or quotes from the principal person involved, or a summary.

Eventually, it becomes second nature. I can knock off an easy release (say, for a community happening) in about 20 minutes, and the papers will pick it up. For a project with a national audience and significantly more research involved, it still usually only takes me one to two hours.

A fairly complete course in writing and distributing press releases that get the media to contact you or write newspaper and magazine articles about you is contained in my book, Grassroots Marketing: Getting Noticed in a Noisy World. Preview it at

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