Press Releases 3: Who Reads the Release?

The Mobile Business Marketing Toolkit continues – a series of ideas, techniques, tips, tactics and tricks that you can use to put your business in front of your target audience. Last time we looked at how to write a pressrelease. But who should be on the distribution list?

The backbone of good press coverage is a comprehensive, up-to-date media list, the list of recipients for your press releases. It’s worth putting some effort into creating and maintaining this. The publications on the list will include anything you read yourself for business purposes, the local paper and any local magazines, and any other publication that covers your business.
 
Set your local targets: identify the local papers, radio and TV stations in your key areas, call them all and find out to whom press releases should be directed, ask if they prefer email or paper. Make sure any and all local web sites are on the press distribution list; they probably won’t get much traffic, but it all counts – and they’ll accept press releases by email, so it won’t really be costing you anything.
Set your national targets – especially the trade press (that’s Mobile Business!) and any specialist magazines. Again, include specialist websites and e-newsletters.
 
You probably shouldn’t bother press-releasing the nationals unless you have a quirky story or one involving celebrities; if you have a really significant story, make a personal phone call to the relevant publications.
 
Finding addresses
You can get a pretty comprehensive list complete with addresses and main phone lines from reference publications such as British Rate and Data (an advertiser’s reference more usually called BRAD) and Willings Press Guide; both of these are expensive to buy, but you may find copies in the business section of your local library.
 
MediaUK is the most useful website that list addresses for publications – there are nearly 4,300 of them at www.mediauk.com – and it’s also worth checking out the online-only publications at www.journalism.co.uk/directory. You should also search the web using appropriate search-for phrases – “mobile phone magazine”, for instance, or “industrial cleaning publication”.
 
Your information must reach the right person’s desk every time – journalists operate independently, so you can’t rely on things being passed on. So you need to identify both the  publication and one or more journalists who work on it. You’ll find staff writers listed in the publication itself (if you call the magazine’s advertising department and suggest that you mighty be interested in taking an ad, they’ll send you a sample copy). The websites for individual publications often list staff journalists, too.
 
You may not be able to find a named individual to receive your press releases, however. Much writing is done by freelances, particularly in the trade press, and while they will have a by-line on articles they won’t be listed in the staff directory. If you read something of particular relevance to your business and the author turns out to be a freelance, it may be worth tracking down an address and adding that person to your media list – freelances don’t often write news and so won’t be able to react immediately to your press releases, but they do accumulate contacts and they do hoard facts which may well appear in some future article.
 
Sometimes it’s simply not clear who exactly should get your press release. In that event you could simply try phoning the publication and asking. As a last resort, you could guess at a functional area and add the word ‘editor’ – news releases aimed at the trade press would then be addressed to “The News Editor”, a press release for thebusiness section of your local paper could go to “The Business Editor”, and so on.
 
Once you have constructed a media list, keep it up to date: watch out for personnel changes or new addresses. Keep an eye open for returned mail. Add new contacts as you
come across fresh meat.
 
Not all of the names on your media list should always receive the same press release: for instance, the local paper won’t be particularly interested in the kind of technical development or middle-level appointments that would make it into the trade press.
 
In some cases exactly the same release could go to everyone, of course. But be prepared to customise. You might tweak the wording or the attack to improve its appeal to a local audience, or perhaps to different vertical markets. Or you might write a release specifically for one or two papers.
 
Incidentally, you should update the news section of your website before you send out any press release. If it’s not important enough to be added to your own site, why should anyone write about it?

Keep up the frequency
You need a steady stream of releases, probably one a month (maybe one every three weeks).

 
Whether or not the individual release gets used, the recipients will get used to associating you with the relevant subjects. This helps to establish your presence and your credibility with the press, so that they become more favourably disposed to use your press releases when there’s a choice. If they know your name, it will be you that they turn to when they need a quote about some development in your business.
 
One important bit of advice – don’t expect exclusive and don’t expect extensive. Very few businesses and very few products or services get multi-page stories written exclusively about them. That can happen, especially with a large enterprise. But for most press mentions you’ll get a small reference and it will probably be included in a longer article.
 
Don’t worry: that snippet can generate very strong responses, and if you can engineer a regular series of them the cumulative effects will be worth waiting for.

Create a press kit
Putting together a press kit is a great way to start producing marketing materials.

 
It’s always handy to have something ready when you get a call from a journalist; you can  also enclose a press kit as a backgrounder when you send out a major press release (but don’t bother for run-of- the-mill releases that at best will generate only a few lines of publicity). And if you attend a trade show, be sure to leave copies of your press kit in the press room – along with a description of your exhibit and an accompanying press release, of course.
 
Press kits should be a mix of (a) instant explanation and (b) explanatory background. A journalist skimming your press release needs the instant explanation; the backgroundmight be filed for future reference, for use when the journalist is preparing to interview you orresearching a feature article about your business.
 
THE CONTACT LIST

  1. Do set up a separate contact list for journalists – it’s easy enough to do with Outlook (even Word or Excel will do, though you do want some way of sorting and selecting so a simple text editor probably doesn’t cut the mustard) and you can sync it with your phones.
  2. Don’t be embarrassed by the size of the list. Even if you’ve only got two or three names for your database at the moment, you have to start somewhere. And it will build up quickly if
  3. you put some effort into finding press contacts.
  4. Always get a name if you can. Get a title if you can, too. Every contact entry on your list should have one or the other, and preferably both.
  5. Divide your list – or use keywords to identify contacts – so that you can separate out warm contacts (journalists you’d be happy to call and chat to) and others (who are just people who will get your press releases).
  6. As the list grows, you’ll probably want to add other categorisations – type (local, trade, consumer, national), format (paper, email), contact- only (don’t send releases), and so on.
  7. Maintain the list. Journalists move on, they change their jobs or their job titles, they get married and change their names, publications shut down or change their names … Keep up
  8. to date. Incidentally, if someone has apparently moved it might make sense to call their old office and find out where they have moved to – bigger and better things, hopefully, and hopefully they’ll remember you.
  9. Collect emails and direct phone numbers. Pay particular attention if a freelance journalist contacts you; many guard their contact details fiercely, so treat that information with the respect it deserves.

PRESS TARGETS
You’ll probably be able to identify different groups of recipients for your press releases. The targets will vary from one business to another,but this is a reasonable cross- section:

General interest
  • National newspapers
  • TV and radio
  • Web-only news sites and e-newsletters

 
 
 
 
Local interest

  • Local papers
  • Local websites
  • Local TV and radio

 
 
 
 
 
Special interest

  • Your trade publications and websites
  • Freelance journalists specialising in your field
  • National-press journalists specialising in your field (e.g.newspaper section editors)

 
 
 
 
 
FREE DISTRIBUTION
Submit your press release to these websites, and they’ll distribute it to all the journalists and publications they know about.These services are best for technology release,but hey the more coverage the better …

  • www.clickpress.com
  • www.pressbox.co.uk
  • www.prweb.com

 
 
 
 
 The best paid-for service in the UK is www.sourcewire.com,which charges about £30 per release.Most of the techie journalists in the country are signed up to it.
 

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