How To Get Coverage In Print Media

By Kerry McDuling
21 Comments

Contacting and communicating with the media is an art in itself. Whether or not your item will make the news often depends largely on the initial contact you make. In this article, we will look at the best way of approaching print media, including newspapers and magazines.

The best and most common way of communicating with the media – print, radio and TV – is through preparing and distributing a media release to them. A media release is also known as a press release or a news release.

A media release is a document containing the message you want to tell them. It takes a specific format which is altered only slightly, depending on the author.

How To Build Your Media Release

Generally, your media release should include:

Generally, the media release should not be more than a page, and I cannot stress enough how important it is to summarise the important and interesting information in the first one or two paragraphs. Why? Because journalists receive literally dozens of media releases a day, and do not have the time to read each and every one from top to bottom to work out whether or not it is of interest. They need to know immediately, and if your media release waffles on and on without getting to the point, I can guarantee that it will end up in the bin.

The language you use needs to be simple and to the point. Do not use technical jargon or unnecessary adjectives. Quotes, from yourself or relevant people in your business, are viewed upon favourably by the journalist. The best way to get an idea about how to write it is to read a newspaper – if you can get it to sound like a news article, that is perfect for the journalist. This means they can use much of the media release for the article as it is, without too many alterations.

The media release needs to answer the following questions where possible, and it’s a good idea to always keep the following in mind when writing it:

Contacting the Media

Now imagine you have identified something newsworthy about your business. You have written your media release following the guidelines above and are now ready to contact the media with it. Where do you begin?

Firstly, you need to identify which media your media release is suited to. If it’s only of local magnitude, your local newspaper or community magazine would be the one to target. Alternatively, if it’s something quite significant that should get state-wide or even national coverage, your state metropolitan newspaper/s are appropriate. Alternatively, your news story could suit a women’s magazine. If it is more of a business to business piece, then aim it at industry publications, which is your direct market, rather than a more general audience.

Once you have identified your media outlet, the next thing to do is find out who you need to send your media release to. On a local newspaper, the Editor is an appropriate contact; alternatively you may already know personally a journalist who works there, and can therefore send it directly to them. If we are talking about a national or metropolitan newspaper, the best idea is to identify the relevant industry journalist/section editor. If your business is in the health industry, you need the Health Reporter. If you run a gym, this may be the Sports Reporter.

There are programs and services, such as Media Monitors’ Media Disk and Margaret Gee’s Media Guide in Australia with equivalents overseas, you can subscribe to that collect the names and contact details of all the journalists nation-wide. They cover television news and programmes, radio programmes, local, rural, community and metropolitan newspapers, national publications, industry publications and the glossy magazines you find in the newsagency. There is an annual subscription fee to access these services year round.

Alternatively, if you already know what publication you are targeting, you can simply find the phone number online or in the publication itself, phone them and ask for the relevant person to send your media release to. I also always recommend spending some time in the newsagency, looking at all the relevant publications to make sure you are aware of what is available and what sort of content they cover. Paging through them could also give you ideas of future content to offer.

If I know my journalist contacts well, I don’t usually bother them with a phone call, as I trust they will either get back to me for more information or just go ahead and use the story if they are interested.

If it’s a new contact or an exclusive I am offering, it’s sometimes a great idea to phone, introduce yourself and give them a really brief overview of the story. Sometimes journalists get so many emails that they don’t physically get a chance to go through them all in time, so they appreciate the heads up. Just whatever you do, don’t get in the habit of phoning them to report that you have peeled three potatoes. They will get sick of hearing the sound of your voice if it’s always on the other side of the line!

Working With The Media

Once you have the contact details of the journalist/s you wish to target, and your media release handy, you are well on your way.

However, how you handle the next part of the process could mean lifelong media coverage or the journalist black-listing you forever.

There are three very important things you need to remember when working with the media.

  1. Journalists are not there to promote your business and help you make more money. They are there to present the news to their audience.
  2. Journalists work under very tight deadlines and a great deal of pressure.
  3. Journalists receive a great deal of junk every day – don’t let your message be one of those items.

Here are some more important tips to take into account when working with the media. Some of them are common sense, while others I learned the hard way.

Write in the subject line of your email what the media release is about – Journalists don’t have time to play guessing games. If you send them an email that is blank in the subject line (and journalists say that this happens surprisingly often), don’t expect them to bother opening it.

Write in the body of your email what the attached media release is about – Summarise your media release clearly and concisely in the body of the email, so the journalist knows immediately if it is worth his/her while opening it.

Don’t send large attachments – A journalist will be extremely annoyed if they are waiting anxiously for an email or an image for another story to be emailed to them by deadline, when they are forced to wait an extra half an hour while your massive email with large attachments downloads and then clogs their system.

Never send them an image with the first email and media release – Offer them one in the text of the email and advise them what sort of images you can make available to them. Only send them one if they contact you and specifically request it. When they do contact you, ask them what size they require it to be. Most journalists can generally not receive emails larger than 2MB so be very careful. You don’t want to be the one responsible for clogging up their email server. That is not a very nice introduction at all!

Give them your contact details in the email and make sure you are available – Make sure your contact details are clearly visible in your email, and once you have sent it, ensure you are available in case they call. Journalists will usually not call you back if they cannot reach you the first time. If they cannot reach you and you do not return their call in time, they will simply dump your story and go with another one. If they do not reach you the first time, you need to return their call within the same day. This is vitally important.

Give them what they need for their story – If a journalist contacts you, you need to make sure you provide them with the information they require. Be honest, friendly and helpful. Remember, this is for your benefit, so treat them with the utmost respect.

Don’t ever, ever mention advertising dollars you may have spent with the publication – You need to understand that the news department and the advertising department of any publication are entirely separate. A media organisation does need advertising dollars in order to make money, but this does not, and should not, ever, affect the news that appears in its pages.

Imagine if it’s the time of the federal election, and one major party had more money to spend on advertising than the other. Would you be impressed, as the reader of a newspaper, if the party that did not advertise was totally left out of the news content altogether? That would be an unbalanced view of the news.

Therefore, if you have advertised or do advertise with the publication you have contacted with your media release, do yourself a favour, and never mention that to the journalist. They don’t care and are simply sick and tired of hearing about it from everyone else.

Exclusive means exclusive - If you have offered a media release or story to one particular journalist or publication as an exclusive, don’t go and send it to other publications. This will just spoil the rapport you are forming.

Don’t send them rubbish – Once you have a journalist’s email address, don’t abuse it. Do not send them jokes, company newsletters, forwarded emails, or anything that is not relevant to them. If you do this, they will scrap you from their list of contacts and will never open an email from you again. Only send them well-written newsworthy media releases and remember – if you have nothing to send them, that’s ok, don’t send them anything.

What About You?

I would love for your to share your stories of either writing releases, working with the media and what you learned. Have you formed any great relationships with the media? How did you manage to do that and what has been the result?

Kerry McDuling

About Kerry McDuling

Kerry McDuling is a publicist and Director of her own public relations and publicity consultancy McDuling PR and exposure speciality business, Stratosphere Me – building brands and developing profitable business opportunities for companies, authors, speakers, and entrepreneurs.

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21 Comments

  • I do a lot of online radio here in my city..I come in or call in for an segment and I take question from online business who need advice on marketing online..It a n great way to get yourself out there.

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

  • Kerry,

    This is a very well-written, informative article. As someone who plans on using press releases in the near future to help her business flourish, these guidelines are both very clear and helpful. I plan to reference it in writing my own press releases.

    I especially like the part where you pointed out that one should never mention any amount of money spent at that media outlet in advertising dollars to the contact journalist. It was a very valid point to make as many people are used to the old adage that “Money talks,” and might think bringing up their sponsorship to be a good idea. In this case, it seems that it would “walk,” as goes the latter part of that adage. You might have saved someone who thought they were just being savvy from a hard-learned lesson.

    Thanks again for the insightful article.

    Tracy

  • Sal

    Great points. It’s very hard to get the media to do a story on someone small. There has to be something big in it for them. Can I send them a media release which is 2 months old?
    I launched my site (http://Enterthegroup.com) in October.

    • Hi Sal
      Thanks for your comment and great website!
      You can send the release thats two months old but it really depends on what the release is about. If it can date, then you are best to update it and send another – for example, the reaction your business has attracted since you launched.
      Does that make sense?
      The media will do a story on someone small if the story is of interest and if you have approached the right media!
      Enjoy your weekend.
      Kerry

  • 5W 1H , I always practice it in everything I do including writing articles. ^^
    Who, where, why, when, what, how ?

    Thanks for the post, Print Media is a powerful tool to get tons of visitors and new people on our site. :D

    • HI Jia Jun
      Thanks for your comments and I am glad you are writing articles to build profile for your businesss. Keep it up!
      Kerry

  • Online radio is best for me

  • Beautiful insight as always.

    I agree — the story needs to pop and the headline and first few lines are key. It has to be a story that steals attention.

    I’ve only tried two, but I seriously appreciated the learnings from this second time around. I think the editor made a huge difference and really latched on to certain words and ideas that would create buzz … things that I didn’t see. I might have been too close to it, or too much on the “engineering” side :)

    Here’s the headline that popped:
    ‘Getting Results the Agile Way’ — A Timeless System for Changing Times — Now Available in Print

    That little piece right there … “a timeless system for changing times” was like magic.

    Those vital few lines suddenly told a story. They provide hope among a lot of pain.

    It’s funny how the right few words are everything.

    I noticed there is also a cadence to it. So not only is it a sticky cadence, but it’s fun to tell other people about … because it’s short and memorable … “a timeless system for changing times.”

    It’s also super-relevant for today’s ever-changing world, so I think that also helped.

    Interestingly, while I don’t think I got the reach or awareness I expected from the press release, I ended up with a new, better and simpler way to tell the story of my latest book, so that for me was a beautiful by-product and surprise.

    • Thanks for sharing your learnings with us J.D, and congratulations on “giving it a go”.
      Would be keen to hear how you go with additional media releases in the future.
      Kerry

  • Thank you for sharing a way which will be helpfull to beginners.

  • One way I’ve gotten in the print press is by writing for them! Local magazines and papers are always looking for material to publish. I write for a couple local business magazines and it works out well.

  • Thanks for the tips. Above the line ad usually will get more exposures, but also more budget to spend.

    Print media has longer frequencies for people to see and remember.

    Great article !

  • I have read a similar article some where on a journalist blog who said about getting interviewed by the major news sources and yeah they also looks to collect the facts to showoff in the community you are focusing upon.

  • This is a great series, and I have been sharing it with my sister who owns a brick & mortar business with a lot of community outreach.

    Do you recommend waiting for my new site to build traffic before sending a media release, or should I send one while it is growing since it is truly a new concept in the area?

    I did write kind of a media release in the past. Several local non-profits helped my Special Needs child and a local reporter asked if I would write out some details to catch her up on the back story. She gave me a very short deadline. I wrote it newspaper style thinking it would be quicker and easier for her to pull quotes. Not knowing that I am a published writer, she used almost 100% of it verbatim as if it were her article! Her name was even printed under the picture I sent her, as if she were the photographer!

    I felt I couldn’t complain since the non-profits got the public attention they deserved, but I was annoyed. I felt plagiarized and like the byline should have been mine! It was very hard to bite my tongue when the article was praised as being so well written.

    I still don’t know how I should have handled this. This was not meant to be a media release, but it was treated like one. And even in a media release, I thought that proper credit should be given for photographs.

  • something that has worked for me in the past is the blitz them when times are slow. media business (depending on channel) can be cyclical. understanding the cycle and approaching them when activity is slow gives you better chances for inclusion. media needs content to keep on going.

    many use PRs for back linking purposes, but i agree that if used properly it can be very powerful, particularly for offline media coverage. that said, your industry must be conducive to such strategy. for example, i can’t imagine yaro doing a PR for the EJ blog. i mean he can, anyone can do anything, but i highly doubt media will take any interest?

  • Yaro,

    Great information here! Thanks so much. I am just now learning about press release, so this is a great reference for me as I head in this direction.

    I always enjoy reading your posts as they are very informative and inspirational.

    Have a blessed day,

    Karen

  • Very insightful article, Kerry. Lot of valuable tips for anyone wanting to start publicizing a new venture.

  • From what I’ve learned its all about forming a relationship with them. And providing something worthwhile to them. Remember they are there to do a job so, if you think from their perspective, things will go alot smoother. Don’t assume everything under the sun has the right to make coverage but think about it from a true standpoint of their shoes and the target audience.

    -Jean

  • Thank you. I always enjoy studying your public-spirited posts as they are very enlightening.

  • You have shared very nice tips about having communication with the media. You are right that it is very important for you and your business how you communicate with the media and the points you have described are very useful for it.

  • thanx for the advice. for me this is very important. so thank you.

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