How to send the best press release in the world

When writing Podnews, I see quite a few press releases in an average day: and after ploughing through somewhere in the region of 10,000 of them, I’ve spotted what works and what doesn’t — for me, at least.

So, here are my tips, in case they are useful to you or anyone else.

Make the story really clear

  • In your pitch email, “I think this is newsworthy because” is the best sentence to see. Nobody knows your business like you do, and it helps frame the story in the way you’d like it to be.
  • Then, enclose the release as a simple PDF.

Send a simple PDF

Ideally, the text of any press release should be in your email, but email can mess with links and formatting, so a simple PDF is the next best thing (or an .rtf file). See above for a good one.

  • Links are good. In those PDFs, feel free to link to your company’s website and other places: depending on a publication’s policies, they may retain those links, and you get better control over where they link to if you supply the links in the first place.
  • Make it copyable. Many publications will copy/paste your press release, or at least large chunks of it. Yet, a few large companies spend a long time laying out beautiful press releases using lots of fancy fonts and layouts, only for those releases to be impossible to copy/paste. Really, a simple PDF is fine.
  • An image. Always link to at least one image, and to relevant websites.

Almost every website template has a space for an image. For some, it’s mandatory to put at least one image into every news story, so it can be linked-to.

  • Pictures of humans. As you can see above: photographs, not logos. By all means, send your company’s logo. But if your CEO is quoted in the story, send a picture of them. If this is a new podcast from Joelene Bloggs, send a picture of Joelene. Or, even better, send a picture of Joelene recording her podcast.
  • Decent quality pictures. Make these images decent quality: at least 2048 pixels wide, but the bigger the better.
  • Link to the images. Dropbox, Box, Google Drive or WeTransferIt are all good, or somewhere on your website. That means your emails won’t fill up journalists’ mailboxes, and are more likely to get through.
  • Make them landscape. As above, most websites use landscape images, not portrait.
  • Don’t over-crop them. A good photographer will want to crop the image: and that’s fine; but websites often have a set aspect ratio that we need to fill. If you over-crop backgrounds, that makes life harder to get those pictures looking good in the aspect ratios we have to use.

Say how to pronounce anything weird

Magellan, Audacy, Conal… some journalists might be trying to read this out on a podcast or on the radio. Write them out phonetically if there might be any doubt. (Mu-GEL-un, ORR-der-see, COE-null)

Get everything that the journalist needs

The person you’re sending it to may not be in the same timezone as you, so if they can only respond after you’ve finished for the day, that’s probably not a brilliant plan.

  • “Are you interested in a story about (blah blah blah), I can send you a press release if you like?” Just send the press release. Really.
  • “High quality images on request” Just link to them.

Embargoes and timezones

Any decent journalist will respect an embargo, though ideally please place the embargo time in the subject line of the email to help and make it really obvious.

  • Does your embargo really need to have a time on it? When you say Monday at 8.00am, do you really mean “Monday at 8.00am” or do you actually mean “Monday morning”, so a publication that publishes at 7.00am could carry this story?
  • Is it obvious when an embargo lifts? Don’t use words like “tomorrow”: it’s tomorrow somewhere in the world already (just ask New Zealand), so use a date instead. What timezone do you mean? 8.00am New York time? Or 8.00am Sydney time?

It makes all the difference to get a press release that’s good to use: and it slows a journalist down if they have to do extra work. Make friends with a journalist and, who knows, they might give you nicer coverage, who knows…