The title of this post might sound harsh but it's designed a) to get your attention and b) to hit a nerve.
I wonder if you feel like you've spent too much of your valuable time, energy and resources crafting a beautiful press release, only to find it falls on deaf ears. Perhaps you've spent hours compiling a comprehensive database of journalists and editors, only to find none of them open your email. Maybe you look on in bemusement as your competitors get business-boosting coverage in the press, online or on broadcast media while you struggle to be seen and heard.
Are you wondering where on earth you're going wrong?
Well, that beautifully crafted press release and that fantastic media database may be part of the problem. That was the case for a client I coached recently on effective PR.
As someone who's been on the receiving end of many press releases over the years, I can tell you from experience that journalists and editors don't care for them. They tend to be too long and wordy, crammed with jargon, and the news is often buried in the final few paragraphs. Like you, we're pushed for time, so we want to know what the story is and we want to know fast. We also want to know why your story is especially relevant to our audience, which means you need to do your research. You need to read the paper you're pitching to, check out the magazine you want to be published in, or listen to your target radio or TV show.
You don't have time?
Here's how to save time.
Abandon the beautiful press release. Stop wasting time adding random names of editors at random publications to your database. Halt the scattergun approach, where you send the same press release to lists of journalists, without knowing who they are or what they want.
Then, take the time you've saved and identify your top 5 or 10 media targets. Research them. Read them and listen to them. Find out who their top writers are in your field. Which reporters cover stories like yours? Get to grips with why that magazine, newspaper or website really needs your story.
Next, send a personalised, tailored story pitch to each of the journalists or editors you've identified, explaining why your story, business, brand or book is relevant to their readers. This may sound time consuming but it'll be worth it when you make that big splash. And remember, you've saved time by not doing the same things over and over again and getting the same unsatisfactory results.
Once you've emailed, follow up with a phone call. Yes, a phone call! On many occasions, editors had missed my emails due to inbox overload but they were interested in the story when I explained it on the phone. What have you got to lose?
You could also pick up the phone first. Scary, I know. But you'll be surprised. Some journalists will actually want to hear from you. Just make sure you're ready. Rehearse your pitch. Tell them your story in a few lines. Then follow up with an email if they sound interested.
As for the practicalities, put 'Story idea' or 'Blog idea' or 'Story proposal' in the title of your email, along with a punchy, eye-catching headline that sums up your story. Nothing cryptic. Make sure it's clear.
Then write 3-4 sentences explaining what the story is, why it matters now and why it should be featured in that particular media outlet. Is your story part of a trend or does it buck a trend? Is it timely? Does it coincide with a news event, an anniversary or an awareness day? Is it shocking or heartwarming?
Before you wrap up, include a line or two about your credentials, as an individual or a business, and any juicy statistics or facts that back up the story.
All this should fit in an email above the fold. Don't make them scroll down or open attachments - they haven't got time.
If you hear nothing, don't be disheartened. I have been ignored by editors and producers more times than I can remember. It goes with the territory! Simply move on to your next target until you make a hit.
If you'd like more tips like this, you can download my free Own Your Own PR guide at http://www.kbjournopr.com/free-guide.html or come to my next Own Your Own PR workshop at the Hub Westminster in Central London on Oct 10. Earlybird tickets on sale now here. Just 8 places so there's time for lots of individual feedback and coaching. I also coach 1-1 so get in touch at email@example.com if of interest.
I look forward to reading all about you in the press or hearing you on the radio or TV!