In the world of public relations, there are two kinds of news releases, two kinds of press releases. One kind is startlingly effective, one is mostly a failure.

The news release that comes to mind when you think of the phrase press release is a stock document loaded up with corporate jargon and useless platitudes. Such-and-such company, the industry leading, innovative, fastest growing, announced its new flexible, scalable, award-winning, revolutionary turnkey solution to leverage synergies and best-of-breed strategies. Unsurprisingly, these news releases go mostly unread and certainly go unpublished.

The second kind of news release, the release that stands a reasonable chance of getting traction, is this: a personal note to a journalist or publisher asking if they’d like to hear more about your product/service and what tangible impact it’ll have on the industry. The secret to making this second kind of news release work is a three-part formula:

  1. Actual news. The product must be of legitimate interest to the audience and not just to you. If other people are already asking you about it, unsolicited, chances are it’s news.
  2. Personal relationship. You (or your agency) must have cultivated at least a collegial relationship with the journalist, such that they treat your messages as notes from actual friends. When they see your name, they open it.
  3. Opportunity. If you’ve done your homework and built the relationship, you know when certain kinds of stories are needed. You have your finger on the pulse of your industry’s news and have an angle for what you have to share that fits into the news of the day.

The ask is startlingly simple: “Hi (friend’s name). We’re releasing [product name] that will have [impact on the industry]. Would you be interested in covering it?” As long as you have actual news, a personal relationship with the journalist, and have done your homework so that you know there’s a legitimate news opportunity that would benefit the publisher, there’s a good chance you’ll get an interview and possibly coverage out of it.

If your efforts at getting coverage aren’t working, ask if you have real news that’s aligned with an opportunity for a publisher to increase their audience’s engagement or growth and a real relationship with that publisher. Then fix the parts that you’re weakest at!

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