As a former reporter and editor, I used to receive many press releases from PRs eager to get their clients’ stories featured in print and online. Now working in the PR industry and writing press releases myself, I’d like to share how this newsroom experience has been invaluable when producing targeted content that journalists are looking for.
Journalists’ needs are all about the details of a story – the who, what, where, why, when and how. This may sound obvious, but I can remember many times when these important details were found buried at the very bottom of a press release – not ideal when trying to quickly turn around a story on a busy press day.
One of the first things I was taught as a reporter was to imagine a news story as an ‘inverted pyramid’. The most important, newsworthy details are placed at the widest part of the pyramid – in this case, the very top of the news story – while more general information would go in the narrower part of the pyramid near the bottom. I like to apply the same principle when writing press releases, making it easier for reporters to find key details and increasing the likelihood of the story being picked up.
Additionally, journalists need to know the audience they are writing for, and it’s equally important for PRs to have insight on readers of the magazines, newspapers and online media sites they are targeting.
During my time working for a magazine targeted at independent convenience store and small shop owners, it amazed me how many times I would receive a press release about an exciting new brand, only to read on and see the product was “only available at major supermarkets”. I distinctly remember having to patiently explain to one PR representing a well-known biscuit brand (who I won’t name here to spare their blushes) the difference between a supermarket convenience store (i.e. Tesco Express) and an independent convenience store (i.e. Costcutter), all because they hadn’t done their homework on our target market beforehand.
By thinking like a journalist and taking time out to thoroughly research the publications and news sites they regularly speak to, PR’s can produce more tailored content and improve their chances of gaining some great coverage as a result.