In an era where digital channels are often seen as the key to getting your message out effectively, the humble media release can easily be seen as old-fashioned and past its use by date.

In fact, the very opposite is true – there’s arguably never been a better time to make use of this tried and tested method – especially via local newspapers.

In the face of collapsing advertising revenues, many newspaper companies have slashed staff numbers. This means those left running the show simply don’t have the time to research and write their own stories and, more than ever, are heavily reliant on contributed content.

However, just writing and sending a media release is no guarantee of success in achieving coverage.  Despatching a news release to the local paper is completely different to paying for an advertisement.

Payment for advertising means a guarantee of publication and total control over the content of what appears. On the other hand, a media outlet has no obligation to publish editorial based on your release unless they deem it to be worthy of coverage.  And, even if they do decide to run a story based on your news release, the way that story is written is entirely at their discretion.  If you want to guarantee publication and control how the content appears you need to pay for an advertorial.

There are a few things you can do to boost your media release’s chances.  Above all else, make sure your news release is about something that is genuinely newsworthy.  Assess the subject matter through the eyes of a newspaper editor NOT through your own rose-tinted glasses.  A journalist’s primary concern will always be to ensure a topic is of genuine interest to his or her readers.

For a local newspaper these are the factors that will most commonly tick that box:

  • The subject of the release is genuinely local. It could be, for example, about someone who lives locally and has achieved something significant.
  • The information is relevant to the readership. For example, a forthcoming event that locals can attend.
  • News that is truly new and happening now. It could be an opinion you are expressing about some trend that is attracting debate in the wider community or the way in which your company or organisation is responding to a recent event – raising money for people impacted by a natural disaster that is attracting widespread publicity, for example.
  • Content that is genuinely out of the ordinary or different – becoming the first in your area to adopt a new piece of technology.

Some other tips for giving your media release a better chance of getting across the line include:

  • Keep the running length to no more than one page – eight to ten paragraphs is ideal.
  • Include an eye-catching headline. News editors and journalists are busy people and often just scan the first few lines – you need to grab their attention quickly.
  • Get to the point. The first and second sentence need to convey the important news you are trying to convey– burying the key facts deep in the body of the release is a mistake.
  • If possible, attach some high-quality photographs of the subject matter when your news release is emailed. They don’t need to be taken by a professional but neither can they be out of focus, low-res (for print) or poorly framed.
  • Make sure you include contact information at the bottom of the release – a name, email address and phone number for the journalist to get more information or follow up with a question.
  • Don’t be afraid to check that the news outlet received your release. It is not uncommon for media releases to get lost in a busy journalist’s email inbox, so a follow up call or note is highly recommended.

The press release can be a very powerful tool.  While it does not come with a guarantee of coverage every time, by executing it well and following the tips above, you can certainly increase your chances considerably.