Press releases are a good idea to send anytime and all the time. Most newspapers and magazines are always looking for good and interesting copy to fill vacant space or to catch their readers’ attention. But in larger markets, they get tons of press releases every week and may not be able to sort through them right away. You should always use a 9×12 envelope, preferably white, so your internal sheets are not folded. If the person at the newspaper or magazine opens your envelope and lays your press release on his or her desk, you don’t want the release to curl up where it was folded, covering your headline.
You can also use email to transmit your press release, but it’s very easy for the recipient to delete an email without giving it his or her full attention.
If the media outlet publishes your item, it needs to be newsworthy, informative, new, innovative, or of public interest. If you write it to sound like an advertisement or a commercial, you’ve just wasted your time. The media outlet is fully aware of why you sent the press release to them, and they will use it only if it’s informative or different. They can’t stay in business giving away free advertising or publicity, but if it’s newsworthy, there might be a place for it.
Physical press releases need to be double-spaced and on white paper. (Double-spacing leaves room for editing.) They should include a contact person’s name at the end with a phone number and/or email address. Don’t send generic press releases or photocopies to Attn: Editor; personalize each release letter with a person’s name. You can look up the correct person’s name in Bacon’s Media Directory or simply call the publication and ask.
You can enclose another sheet or two with information on your product or service, but don’t include too much. You need to pique their interest with one main news idea and not confuse or frustrate them with needless literature.
An editor or reporter may call you with questions. You need to be available, as he or she may not call back. And get to know reporters and their deadlines—they may contact you when they need advice in your field. You could go on file as an expert when big news in your area of expertise is happening.
So where do you send press releases? To the publications that would have an interest in what you do. You’re wasting your time and money if you send a press release on a new cat-litter product to an industrial news magazine; you want the pet magazines. Every industry should have several publications you can approach. Look for specific publications and address your packet to the appropriate editor or reporter by name.
Be patient; you may not get a response for one to two months, or sometimes even longer. And just because you didn’t get a response the first time, that doesn’t mean you can’t try the publication again. But don’t overdo it and send something every week, or the editor may just toss the envelope without opening it as soon as he or she sees your return address. Sometimes timing can be a factor if they need fillers and you’re lucky enough to be there at the right time.
Following are some sources where you can find publications on all types of industries and subjects. Most of these should be available at your local library in the reference department:
- Bacon’s Newspaper and Magazine Directory
- News Media Yellow Book
- SRDS Newspaper Advertising Source
- SRDS Business Media Advertising Source
- Working Press of the Nation, Vol. 2
You aren’t able to check out most of these directories and others, so bring paper and pen with you or some change to use the library copier. Plan to spend some time; there’s a lot of information to search through. Revised editions of many of these directories come out every year. If you find that press or news releases are working well for you, consider buying one of these directories or subscribing on the Internet for easier use in your office or store.