Each week, at MediaHQ, we distribute over 1,000 press releases on behalf of a range of clients. We are responsible for helping 100s of organisations distribute press releases so that they can generate awareness for their business or cause.
We’ve been working with companies for over 12 years, helping them build media lists, write press releases and develop the right strategy for sending their stories. In that time we have gained significant experience in what works in terms of:
- how to write a press release
- how to effectively pitch your story and
- how to distribute your press release to achieve maximum success.
We’ve distilled what we have learned in those years so you can gain insights into how to successfully distribute your press release. We’ve put together four of our key tips here:
1. Use an online tool
Back when MediaHQ first began in 2006 emailing press releases was just taking off. PR pros were still not sure if this medium could be trusted, faxing was still the norm while some press officers, our own CEO included, were in the habit of printing off press releases and distributing them to journalists by hand.
Thankfully, this has all changed. Today, every communication team know or should know, the best way to write press releases, to manage your media lists and to distribute your press release is all online.
Media intelligence tools like MediaHQ give you all the PR tools you need via one single platform. You no longer have to scramble between multiple desktop tabs to distribute your press releases or even worse, fax it to journalists and say a prayer they received it ok.
Today, you can find the right contacts to reach out to, build your media lists, distribute your press release and view your press release reports all in one place. By using a single platform that provides you with all the PR tools you need you are saving yourself time and effort, you no longer have to do the mundane PR grunt work and you can focus on getting the most from your press releases.
2. Find the right contacts
Before you distribute your press release it’s vital you are sending it to the right people. You need to pick out the journalists who will be interested in your story. If your press release is an arts and culture story you should not be sending it to a sports journalist. This may sound basic but through our work contacting journalists, we find they regularly comment on how many unrelated press releases take up space in their inbox.
With over 60,000 journalists working in the United Kingdom at any one time and over 6,000 in Ireland, finding the right journalists for your story can sometimes feel like trying to find a needle in a haystack. When you’re trying to find these journalists quickly, this task becomes almost impossible.
An easy way to find journalists who would be interested in your press release is to use a media intelligence tool. Simply put your keyword or topic into the search engine and in a few simple clicks you should have lists of journalists who typically cover the same topic.
From these journalists, you can create your own unique list based on location, organisation type and whether or not they’re already discussing your topic in their published pieces or on their social media channels.
Having the right people receiving your press release boosts the effectiveness of your distribution as they are more likely to feature news stories related to their areas of interest. It also stops you annoying journalists who don’t want your press release. Remember a sports journalist doesn’t want an arts and culture story.
3. Choose your time
To effectively distribute your press release, timing is everything. Deciding when to send your release can be the difference between your story getting picked up or it falling flat.
PR pros often use gut feelings to judge when to send their press releases. Experience and instinct takes over and you end up choosing a date just because it feels like the right time to do so. While this can work well for a lot of campaigns it is risky, sometimes your gut instinct is not always right.
Instead, we recommend you sit down and plan what day and time you will send your press release. Here in our offices when we are sending our own press releases we often have a brainstorming meeting. We ask ourselves, who are we targeting, when do they work, what way should we contact them? The answers to these questions generally give us the answer we need. So, ask yourself, when is the best time for this story?
If your story is connected to a specific date then it’s a bit easier.
If your release has an embargo on it, distribute it to the journalists on your list the day before. Make sure to send it at 9am or earlier. This will give journalists enough time to work it into their publishing scheduled. Another trick to make sure your release is picked up is to email journalists ahead of the release being sent. Let them know you have a story for the specific date, give them the embargoed press release and let them know you will be sending it out the day before the embargo. If a journalist knows to expect your story, the more likely it is they will include it in their publication.
If your story is for a specific supplement or column that falls on a certain date each week then your job is a little bit easier. Supplement editors and columnists work far in advance. They know what they are putting in their section long before it is published. To work with journalists on this, you need to make sure to send your story in as much time in advance as possible. We always suggest sending it a minimum of two weeks before the publication date you’re looking for. This gives the supplement editors and columnists enough time to plan your story into their publishing calendar.
If your story is not attached to a specific date, earlier on in the week is always better. As you get closer to the end of the week it becomes harder to pitch stories. Ideally, always aim to send your story on Mondays or Tuesdays.
An even better approach is to distribute your press release on Sunday for the Monday media. Journalists working on a Sunday are usually in a spin about what to include in the Monday papers. If you’re using this approach send your press release around 11am. This is the time most journalists arrive in the office, this way your email will be top of their inbox when they sit down at their desks.
You can schedule your release to send through your press release distribution software, meaning you don’t have to spend your Sunday chained to your desk, instead you can enjoy your weekend knowing your press release has been delivered.
4. Make sure your press release is ‘journalist friendly’
Journalists are busy people. This isn’t news to PR people who have experienced a curt phone call or two in their time. But, their deadlines do exist and as PR people you have to work around them.
On average online journalists write eight stories a day, that’s one every hour. To keep up the pace they don’t have time to wait around.
When sending your press release to a journalist you need to make sure you include everything they will need. Here are some tips we’ve learned over the years:
- Send your press release in your email, pasted in after your initial pitch (and not as an attachment).
- Make sure they have access to any quotes or photos they might need e.g. headshots of the person giving the quote, images of a new product/service etc.
- Make sure they have the full description of the product or service you are talking about, including price and links to the product.
These may sound basic but you would be surprised at how many PR people send over a synopsis of the story without giving all the details. In this fast-paced media age journalists don’t have time to ring up PR people looking for more information. If you want your story covered you need to make sure the journalist has everything they need from the word go.
As previously mentioned, sending the journalist an email ahead of distributing your press release to let them know to expect it will do you a lot of favours. Journalists will know your press release is incoming. If it is something they are interested in they will make time to create content around it.
Your job is to make the journalist’s life as easy as possible. This will increase your chances of getting your story picked up.
So when it comes to effectively distributing your press release, here are the key things to remember:
- Make sure to use an online tool as it will save you a lot of time.
- Find the right contacts for your press release, pitching only those who are likely to find the story of interest.
- Choose the right day and time for your pitch ensuring you build in sufficient time for them to consider it.
- Make sure you make life as easy as possible for the journalist so they can publish in confidence.