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  • Sam Schofield

The power of the press release

Why is a press release important when it comes to public relations? If you're keen to promote your business in the regional, industry, national or international press, it's highly likely you're going to get asked for a press release. You can start by calling newsdesks and talking through your proposition, but at some point I can pretty much guarantee the journalist is going to ask you to send a press release or details on an email (essentially the same thing).

Why does this happen? Mostly because journalists are extremely time pressed. For example, when I worked on a regional newspaper, I had a target of producing two page leads, two downpages, two picture stories and at least two NIBs every day, plus one feature a week. That's roughly 1,700 to 2,000 words a day plus an 800-word feature a week. Maybe that doesn't sound like an astronomical amount of words (it is quite a lot), but additionally you have to source these stories, conduct necessary interviews and write-up notes. The feature took me out of the office for at least half day also. This is the work life of most regional newspaper reporters.

So when someone calls in saying they've got a news story, one of the first things a reporter is likely to say is: "can you send details on an email?". PR is about promoting something - your business, your product, your achievement, etc. They're unlikely to sit on the phone for half-an-hour taking shorthand notes. Not unless you're Brad Pitt talking about your latest film or Mark Zuckerberg on about a revolutionary new product. But even film studios and social media giants will issue press releases. Reporters are just as keen to get the story right as you but, instead of interpreting a phone conversation, they'd prefer to have something written down. They can ask any follow-up questions on the back of this.

Besides the time constraints journalists operate under, writing a press release allows you to convey your story in the manner you intend. You can get your details across succinctly and, if written well enough, there's a good chance sections or all of it will be used verbatim in the publication you're targeting. Many times have I seen my press releases printed in newspapers and published online exactly as I wrote them.

Of course, sending a press release doesn't guarantee your story will get picked up, but it gives it the best chance. There are other ways to get potential stories across to journalists as well and we will cover these in future posts. We will also look at the basics of press release writing and how to pitch your story when you have everything lined up.

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