When a company wants to influence journalists – that company will normally issue a press release.

In most big companies, the press release will be written and distributed to relevant journalists by the press-relations or publicity department. Publicists spend much of their time dealing with journalists, so they will know exactly which journalist to offer each story. It’s quite an art because journalists want to think they are getting exclusives but companies want their stories told by as many publications as possible.

The best press releases take advantage of the fact that most journalists are busy or lazy – often a publicist will try to write the press release in the same style as the publication. That way the journalist is more likely to paraphrase or even quote the entire press release in their article.

In case you watched a few too many episodes of Superman, and thought that journalists were courageous crusaders in search of the truth, allow me to shatter some illusions. Most journalists do not work for big ‘Daily Planet’ style publications – they work for unglamorous trade press. Wages are low and deadlines are tight. Most trade journalists are young and inexperienced. The successful publicists take advantage of this – they make the journalists life easier and more glamorous in return for getting good press.

It’s not hard to prepare your own press releases. Here are some tips:

  • Why you are approaching the press: Are you trying to boost awareness of a new product or draw press attention away from an embarrassing incident. Whatever your motive, keep it in mind at all times: focus is the key.
  • Be clear in your own mind what your story is and why readers might find it interesting. Why is it newsworthy? If it sounds boring, or like old, there is no way a journalist will spend their time on it.
  • Don’t just give your side of the story. Do some research – it’s often worth including references or statistics from other people or companies. Before you write your press release, research the subject. The more you do, the less the journalists have to do.
  • Find the names of some journalists who might be interested in your story. If an article does not have a by-line you can ring up the publication and ask who wrote a particular piece. Don’t be afraid to ring them up – publications are usually as desperate for content as you are to get publicity!
  • Write your press release in a similar style to the publication you are sending it to, but don’t try to be funny. Journalists are more likely to use your material if you stick to the facts and give the journalists something that they can work from.

    If you want an example of a well-written press release then follow me.