I can summarize this in six words: they’re fact holders and not storytellers.
If you want to attract the press, especially traditional media attention, you have to tell a story worthy of news coverage.
Ah, simple. Indeed it really is, but countless businesses and even big brands still issue a press release that is merely a fact holder.
Sure it’s got the 5 Ws and even H. But still the press release captivates few journalists. If you want traditional media attention… then follow a command that I say in every episode of my highly-rated podcast, “Think Like A Journalist”.
Journalist are storytellers. They get the facts and mesh the facts with a good story or face losing audience appeal. They can’t just spout off facts in their nightly newscast or their evening papers. They have to find the story and the supporting facts.
It’s more work but it’s more effective than a press release that’s written as a fact holder.
We discuss this in this episode of The Brand Journalism Advantage Podcast with Tomas Kellner who is a former print journalist and now the Managing Editor at GE Reports.
The fact that GE Reports has a Managing Editor is a testament to where the big brands are headed–they’re becoming the MEDIA, not just waiting for the media to cover their stories.
These big brands and smaller brands that are on the forefront of marketing and social sharing understand that a story is highly shareabl—a Press Release is not. Watch this short clip to hear what Tomas says about it.
My career as a TV journalist for more than 15 years in gave me ample time to see what businesses were doing wrong when they pitched the media.
Why your press release won’t get you press and what to do about it.
The typical press release is a ME-centered piece of content that gives little consideration to what the media is looking for or interested in covering.
Do this instead: study the media and the reporters and their beats. Submit a press release that more resembles a well-written article that has an angle that is hot in the news. I call this “piggyback” journalism. When there’s a trending topic, find an angle and a way that your business can have a response, comment, or connection to it.
When I was a TV reporter, my colleagues and I would “piggyback” by having different angles of the same story that aired in the same newscast. We would go deeper in each story and cover different storylines.
For instance, if the lead story was an e-coli outbreak, there would be a reporter covering the actual outbreak, another reporter covering the history of e-coli (how frequent/rare are outbreaks), and maybe even a third reporter covering a story on how to prevent e-coli outbreaks.
If you’re a bakery, culinary school, health education business…you should see your opportunity to do “piggyback” journalism.
Jump on the back of the lead story and pitch the media with a story that will add value to the ones they’re already covering. So, for instance, maybe you’re a culinary school and your pitch is how to properly clean a kitchen to prevent e-coli or the proper training for chefs to stop the spread of e-coli.
Either of those pitches would’ve interested me as a reporter even if an e-coli outbreak wasn’t happening at the moment. But, hands down, that pitch would be discussed in our newsroom meetings if an outbreak was actually happening. And, likely, I would’ve been calling your culinary school for a tour and interview.
I know. I’ve covered many e-coli outbreaks for TV’s nightly news.
However, “piggyback” journalism without knowing how to shape and tell a story will do you little good. So, either learn to write like a reporter or hire a journalist or a brand journalist.
Let’s pause here a moment to understand the difference between a traditional journalist and a brand journalist.
You can’t usually hire reporters who are already working for traditional media outlets to report on your brand. You can hire brand journalists (often former reporters). These folks, like yours truly, have the skill set they used working in newsrooms AND the skill set of marketers.
A brand journalist is a win-win for your brand. News-style reporting + marketing skills applied to your brand = a story that really matters (possibly to the media) and to your target audience.
Brand journalists know how to research and find the facts, conduct interviews, dig for the story, keep up-to-date with the daily makings of that story, produce it in a newsworthy manner and a way that’s beneficial to your brand. (After all, they’re hired by your company, not a media publication, so they write the story with that in mind).
Ethical brand journalists operate with transparency in mind. They’re not tricking the audience or the news media. Instead they’re speaking the language of the MEDIA. They’re telling the story the way the news media does and therefore the media is more likely to consider doing its own version.
Here’s an example of a video story I did that used “piggyback” journalism to discuss hot issues like the California drought as well as sharing information about what it takes to raise Christmas trees.
What you can do to make your press releases attract media attention.
Look for a brand journalist to write the copy for the press release and then make it into an article, not just a place to deliver the facts about your product or event. Also, note that unless your event has something really spectacular going on, (e.g.: the President is coming to it—that’s the U.S. President, not just the president of your organization—or a celebrity, or some other unusual thing is happening) your event likely won’t get covered.
But guess what?
You shouldn’t care because your “gala” event is not where the story really is and journalists know this. They want to talk to the real people who are impacted. Journalists want to go to where the real story unfolds. Depending on your company, that could be in the factory or at a home (if you’re a homebound senior-care facility, for instance).
The stories are more real when they’re reported on from the scene. That’s why TV News stations do LIVE coverage. It’s happening now. The story is unfolding right there. That’s news.
Your company, while it may not have “breaking news”, I guarantee it can become more newsworthy.
But you have to Think Like A Journalist and this can be hard for brands to do… so, either learn how or hire a brand journalist to help you discover the really good stories that your brand has to tell. I’m certain they’re there.
For more tips on writing press releases that attract media attention, listen to our podcast with Mickie Kennedy founder of eReleases.com, click to listen now.
Phoebe Chongchua is a multimedia Brand Journalist who loves to tell stories, craft brand strategies, and help brands gain exposure. She’s a Top 50 Podcaster to Follow. On her Internet radio show, The Brand Journalism Advantage podcast, she shares how to gain a Competitive Advantage. Give it a listen, you’re sure to take away some great branding tips.