When I was a reporter, a communications firm emailed me a news release about an education expert available for comment. A combination of the following reasons led me to ignore the release:
1. Contact information was at the top.
Place contact information at the bottom. Your lede—the first few sentences you hope grab a reporter’s attention—takes priority. Contact information at the top reinforces the feel of a news release, which you don’t want. Your email signature should offer sufficient contact information.
2. The news release included a headline.
You don’t need a headline. A news release is not a news story. Your email’s subject line serves as a sufficient headline.
3. The news release included a dateline.
You don’t need a dateline. Again, this is not a news story.
4. The news release explained, “So and so is available for comment.”
If you’re sending an email about an expert, reporters already understand someone is available for comment.
5. The news release listed five topics the expert could speak about to reporters.
Pick one topic you’re most passionate about or one that is timely. Don’t throw darts hoping one of the many topics will stick.
6. The news release included a “who, what, when” section.
This section simply repeated information previously mentioned in the release. This section is unnecessary.
7. The news release ended with “###.”
You don’t need to include this to indicate the news release is over.
8. There wasn’t a local angle.
The news release was sent from New York, and did not give reporters a reason why they should interview an out-of-town expert. Reporters interested in the topics could likely find local education experts. Either persuade reporters to interview someone from out of town or offer a local representative.
9. The news release wasn’t personal.
The release did not offer a local parent to interview about the education topics. Personalize news releases. Share stories of real people.
10. The news release raised a question.
It made me ask myself: Wouldn’t building relationships with reporters work better than somewhat randomly sending out news releases?
Keith Yaskin was a TV reporter for 17 years. This article first appeared on his blog at TheFlipSideCommunications.com.