Placing a press release


After you have written the perfect press release, you must aim it at a likely prospect and time its release to advantage.

Your options include exclusive release to a single organisation, selective release or a broadside. Each method has its time and place.

When looking for a likely outlet, think of both your news value in general and of its use in specific areas of interest. Don’t, for example, send a release on mountain climbing to a new car magazine. Don’t send a release on end-of-year financial results for a listed company to a boating magazine unless your business activities affect boating.

Exclusive release

Think hard about an exclusive release before you do it. Exclusive releases generally are pre-arranged between a news source (this would be you) and the reporter. An organisation may be keen to receive prominent treatment on the business pages of the morning newspaper.

The organisation’s liaison person would contact the reporter, gauge interest for the story and arrange to deliver the release in time for the reporter’s deadline. Because the story’s exclusive, it gets a more prominent place on the page.

This ‘exclusive’ business doesn’t necessarily have to be the screaming headlines surrounding news of a celebrity divorce or shock horror probe. Exclusive, in its quieter mood, means the news outlet has the story first and so fulfils part of its contract with its readers by delivering the news first to them. That earns your story a better place on the page.

This sort of arrangement generally needs a news story with some meat on its bones. Don’t try it for your school’s flower show prize giving or election of officials at the local car club (unless Michael Schumacher has agreed to serve).

Selective release

Selectively releasing your story is the best approach. You research the market. List the local and national publications that deal in your kind of story and send them the release. This can be widespread or you might restrict it to just a couple of specialist publications that report on your type of activities. It might be every daily paper whose address you can find or just a few radio stations.

Your selection will be dictated by geography (Invercargill doesn’t want to know about Lower Hutt small businesses or voluntary group issues). It will be restricted by the importance of the story (Wellington’s Dominion Post doesn’t care about Hutt schools’ prize giving, although it’s part of its circulation area, but the local throw away paper does).

Find contacts for news outlets at your local library or just browse a large news agent’s shelves.

Medium

Your media options include print (daily, weekly, magazine), Internet news sites, television and radio.

Print

The first print tier is the daily newspapers, both metropolitan and provincial. They have the largest appetite. They publish 6 days a week and thrive on reflecting the hum of their neighbourhoods.

Sunday papers are as close as we have to national newspapers. They need to run stories of general interest to woo readers from across the country.

Throw-away newspapers (they call themselves ‘community newspapers’) push parish pump stories through local letterboxes. They’re an excellent source of publicity for your release. Their editorial standards will be less demanding than the metropolitan papers because a local angle is often enough to earn inclusion rather than having to be a hard news story.

Electronic

Radio is a gigantic medium sucking up news, using it and searching frantically for more. Between 6 and 9 each morning, radio stations run news bulletins on the half hour. This is their peak audience time. Their overnight news gathering usually consists of a dozen or so local and national stories that are repeated throughout this period. Bulletins begin to sound pretty stale by 8.00am. Radio’s voracious appetite means that on average days, your story (assuming it has news value to the station) is likely to be repeated half a dozen times to a peak audience. The station may network nationally and you may find for syndicated news services that your story is piped across a dozen radio station 6 times in a morning in 20 towns and cities.

Radio divides into Radio New Zealand – state-owned and with a brief to inform and entertain and private radio which covers everything from music to talk back.

Here’s a generality but it’s handy to know: Radio New Zealand broadcasts many hours daily of solid news and interviews. Its audience can think and absorbs extended discussions on complex issues. If you are pressing for social or legislative change, Radio New Zealand has the time and audience to debate the issue.

The rest of radio in New Zealand runs 3 minute bulletins, punctuated by commercials and self promotions. A standard radio news story on this medium is about 4 to 5 paragraphs long. You won’t receive detailed coverage. The duration of some peak time bulletins are inflated by stock market, currency and sports reports but 4 or 5 paragraphs is usual for story length.

Television is a good medium to aim for because it does your job in one clean hit. Television New Zealand’s 6 pm news is the ratings leader followed by TV 3’s. For best coverage, go to TVNZ first and then, if you’re turned down, try for TV3. You might be a TV3 News fan and want to try them first but you’re goal is audience and, at present, TV One delivers a bigger audience. This has changed in recent years and TV3 is attracting more of the 18 to 45 year old segment of the audience, leaving middle aged and old people to TVNZ but, overall, TVNZ still delivers a larger total audience.

Alternatively hit them each at the same time and perhaps they’ll both pick up the release. Often, a strong story in a newspaper will be followed up that night on television and it may be they who chase you.

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