There are many reasons why your media release is overlooked – your timing is off (the story has already been done), the journalist has not seen your release, or it is not the right fit.

But … if you factor in the common mistakes people make when sending a story to a journalist, you can minimise your story being sent to the recycle bin.

Here are my top 7 (there are lots more but these are the main boo boos that stood out to me when I was the on the receiving end of media releases)

1. Like murky water

To get a message across you need to know what your message is.  Spend time workshopping your key messages.  A key message needs to be clear, concise and communicate what you do and why you do it. If your message is too complicated or confusing or too commercial, it’s like looking through muddy water – can’t see and have no idea where to go!  A simple, concise, and compelling message that accurately captures your product or service is vital to long-term PR success.

2. Over the top

Don’t make hyperbolic claims, exaggerate or just flat out lie.  Stick to the facts, use your key messages and you will be listen to.  Otherwise, you risk being ignored because journalists have BS radars finely tuned after years of wading through piles of media releases that don’t get to the point and read more like a fiction story.

3. Selling not telling

Using PR as a strategy is all about learning the art of storytelling.  Don’t confuse PR with advertising – they are two different beasts.  Advertising can be effective but if you are using to establish your brand, you may find it a struggle. Use PR to build relationships, trust and credibility.  That is where the storytelling comes in. A media release, a phone pitch and email pitch is not a chance to sell to the journalist, you want to engage them with your story. The media exist to share relevant stories that are of interest to their audience.  Don’t ever ask for free publicity because they are not interested in self-promotion.

4. Shooting for the stars

Aiming high is encouraged but when you are starting out, you want to go for a quick win.  So if you send your media release to 60 Minutes, A Current Affair or a big metro paper and you keep getting knocked back, it is easy to give up in the face of rejection.  Start small. Try your local paper, a blogger or a community radio station. Chances are they will love your story because you are a local.

5. Whatever

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.  

PR is no different to any other business strategy; it needs to be carefully thought out, developed and executed. If you are not committed and you take a haphazard approach to PR, you are setting yourself up to fail. PR is a long-term strategy; it needs a minimum of four to six months to start bearing fruit, and it requires daily care and feeding. A stop-start approach rarely produces results.  

PR may not provide instant results, so don’t be disappointed if you first few forays into the media world are not meet with the enthusiasm you think your story should be greeted.  PR success is dependent on things out of your control – you don’t own the media, you can’t control breaking news… Focus on what you can control – coming up with good story idea, constructing a well written release and getting to know the media industry so you know how the game is played.

Don’t put PR to the side – deep down you know you need to be using PR more effectively but not sure how to go about it, how to find your stories, or where to find the resources to do the job effectively.

6.    Are you lonely tonight?

PR is an awesome strategy that can be dovetailed with your other marketing actions. It works best when you integrate with other media. A media release is not a ‘use once’ document; it contains a story you can adapt for a blog, a week’s worth of Facebook posts, Linkedin posts and even advertising. Communicating the same message tailored to suit the relevant media will deliver significant returns on your investment.

7.    Error, error, error

Poorly written media releases are a great way NOT to get your story run. Errors, omissions, poorly worded sentences, lengthy copy, and poor structure are all pitfalls that will find your media released filed under ‘garbage’. The idea is to engage the journalist with a great newsworthy angle, a kick arse headline and opening paragraph (lead). Remember, what is interesting to you as the owner may not be to the journalist. Don’t make your story too boring or technical, avoid buzzwords and jargon because you don’t want to put the journalist to sleep.