Press Release Series: Distribution

Press releases can have a great impact on your business, when written and distributed properly. This is why large PR companies charge thousands of dollars to do the work for you. But many small businesses don’t have the budget for a PR company and must do the work themselves.
In the first installation of the Press Release Series, I explored what you need to have in place before your copywriter crafts your press release. But what about distribution? Copywriters don’t offer distribution services; they’re too busy writing! So I turned to two experts for their industry insight to press release distribution.
Steven Spenser is the principal of Praxis Communications as well as a former writer and editor with The Associated Press and Seattle Times. Carla Mata-Sprinkles is the principal of Creative Communication Services, which provides marketing and PR services Small Business Administration Youtube specifically for the furniture industry. While Steven provides a global opinion from an editor’s point of view, Carla understands the world of niche markets. Together, these professionals spelled out the steps to effective press release distribution.
1. Find print & online media for your target audiences.
Carla: “This is likely one of the most time intensive parts of handling your own press release distribution. It requires good, thorough research, which starts online with meaningful key words. But if you’re interested in contacting local target media as well, I recommend getting in touch (via phone call) and reaching out to a local agency (i.e. area Chamber of Commerce). Let them know you’re not local but have a story relevant to their area and ask if they know of any local publications that might be interested in your story. If they don’t have any suggestions, they’ll likely point you in the right direction of someone who can/will suggest some local publications you might miss otherwise.”
Steven: “Submit your release directly to:
1) the particular trade press/media outlets serving that audience demographic, both online and off;
2) vertical-industry sites (and pubs), which often publish news relevant to their professional audiences;
3) blogs (and the often-overlooked category of newsletters) covering your industry;
4) social-news aggregators such as Mashable, Reddit, Digg, Delicious, etc.;
5) general-purpose online news sites (e.g., );
6) the online sites of print, radio & TV news-media outlets; and
7) engines and directories such as Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.
New social networks and discussion boards spring up every month, many of them organized by, and for, particular industries. Join first, participate in dialogues, then – once established as reputable – mention your news in these venues.”
2. Identify the right person to speak to at a publication. Make contact with them before submitting your release.
Both Carla and Steven agree that it’s best to check the publications website or print issue for editor or reporter contact information. If you’re still not sure who to speak to, call the publication and “speak with someone about your story/press release and obtain the contact information that way. You will FOR SURE reach the right person then AND, just as importantly, not get on anyone’s bad side by sending them a story that isn’t relevant to them.”
3. Submit properly. Press release or pitch?
Carla: “Email with ‘For Immediate Release’ or ‘Urgent’ (with the press release’s, hopefully, engaging title to follow) are the best forms.”
Since Carla has established ongoing relationships with editors in her field, many of her contacts have known her for years. So they recognize her name and can trust that her press release will be relevant to them. But Steven gets specific about cold email pitches, insisting that engaging subject lines are key to getting an email opened:
Steven: “Yes, you will almost always get a better reception if the journalist you’re pitching already knows Sky News Trump Commercial you. [But you still need] to customize your email pitch for the target audience to whom you’re speaking.
Crafting engaging subject lines that lead to opening your e-mail requires considerable skill. To be effective, subject lines need to be as enticingly short as possible. Don’t use the press release headline; it will fill up the subject line.”
Furthermore, as a general rule, it’s best to include a link to the release on your site’s Press Center section-which had better be loaded already with all the material any journalist could ever want about your company. The goal of your pitch is to get the journalist to click on the link. Be sure to cover all the newsworthy reasons the recipient, and her audience(s), should be interested in your story.”
While Steven is adamant about never sending a release as an attachment, journalists in smaller markets, like Carla’s, have no problem with putting releases in the email body copy. So just make sure you know your audience.
4. Follow up, follow up, follow up.
Carla: “We’ve found the KEY to success is follow up. The media has thousands of stories to consider. Without follow up it’s very easy to get overlooked. It’s paramount to follow up again and again, and then again, if need be. Without follow up don’t expect much. With follow up we’ve had stories run up to four months after submission. Also, it’s amazing what a good ‘ole fashioned phone call can do. Don’t simply rely on email. As long as you’re polite and respectful, editors and journalists will welcome your call.”
Steven: “Clients new to public relations often think that simply distributing a press release will be sufficient to get their phones ringing. But nowadays, “If you [send] it, they will come” is no longer certain. The press release is necessary as background for your pitch, but a release is no substitute for a pitch. While many places will print whatever you send them, you can’t rely on that; you have to follow up with the recipients. That’s why every press release is always subordinate to the follow up call.”
Distribution certainly takes time and effort, but if small businesses follow this industry insight, their press releases will have a greater chance of getting picked up and generating attention.
Coming Soon: “The Press Release: Print vs. Online Media”

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