Scientists have proved that it is easy for us to point our fingers at other’s mistakes. It is natural for us to judge others as we human beings are created that way in order to fight for our own survival, surpassing others so as to achieve more. Journalists are human beings too. It is natural if they tend to dig out others’ mistakes subconsciously, not to mention when they are receiving hundreds and thousands of emails every day. For them, there is nothing called a “perfect press release”. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder somehow. To share or not to share? This is the decision a journalist needs to make when they look at your press release. However, sharable or not sharable is decided within 1 minute, which is the time a journalist usually uses to scan an article. A journalist could be using the 1 minute just to dig out your mistakes.
In an article published in Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, the author Arne Roets mentioned, “Everyone has to make decisions, but some people really hate uncertainty and therefore quickly rely on the most obvious information, often the first information they come across, to reduce it. If you provide information that contradicts their decision, they just ignore it.” Therefore, the first rule is: don’t get on the nerves of a journalist.
Forbes has done an interview with some of the top journalists at publications.
Do you want to know what really annoys them about press releases?
- Do not capitalize every word in a headline
“Don’t clear your throat in the subject line — get straight to the point– and don’t shout at me with all-caps,” Jennifer Bogo, Executive Editor, Popular Science.
Headline in all capital case looks like spam emails to journalists, plus it is hard to read. A release headline with all lower case is not good either.
Consider the examples below:
“CHI-BA+KUN” and “DAPPEE” to Appear in 2017 Taiwan Lantern Festival in Yunlin (Title case)
“CHI-BA+KUN” AND “DAPPEE” TO APPEAR IN 2017 TAIWAN LANTERN FESTIVAL IN YUNLIN (All capital case)
“chi-ba+kun” and “dappee” to appear in 2017 taiwan lantern festival in yunlin (All lower case)
The highlights are the two mascot characters “CHI-BA+KUN” and “DAPPEE”. The two highlights do not stand out if the headline is either in all capital or all lower case. What’s even worse? It is possible that a headline in all capital case gets rejected by Yahoo. Obviously, the best one is the title case headline. Meanwhile, it is okay to capitalize one or two words that you would like others to notice. Read full text of this press release.
- A clear news angle
“I sometimes read an entire press release and can’t pull out the key takeaway. I always like to say, explain it to me in a sentence or two like you were telling your Grandmother, before getting into the specifics,” Samantha Murphy Kelly, Tech Reporter, Mashable.
Get straight to the point. Put all the key words at the front. The first paragraph should be a summary of the press release so once the journalists read it, they should get a brief idea of what your press release is about. If it is a good summary, you can easily identify the 5W1H elements.
See the following example from IBF China about the four bouts of the IBF World Championship being listed among the top CCTV 10 programs:
According to statistics from CCTV, the predominant state television broadcaster in China (Where), four bouts of the CCTV Chinese Lunar New Year IBF World Championship are listed among the top 10 programs of its CCTV-5 channel’s audience ratings (What) during the Chinese Spring Festival (When). Nearly 400 million people from all over the world watched the bouts. Experts say IBF (Who) has achieved outstanding results in promoting professional boxing in China. (Where)
Another good example from Alisports (Shanghai) about the 2016 World Electronic Sports Games (WESG):
The Grand Finale of the 2016 World Electronic Sports Games (WESG) (Who) was held from January 12-15, 2017 (When). Through four days of battles, Philippine team TNC took home the championship trophy in the game DOTA 2. (What) A Filipino player, Staz, and a South Korean player, TY, earned the championship titles for Hearth Stone and StarCraft II respectively, while the French team EnVyUs won the last and much-celebrated game, CS:GO. (What) The winning teams shared US$5.5 million in prize money. (What)
- No contact information
“When other journalists get them before me. When there’s no contact information for who to reach out to. When key information is left out or left vague,” Jason Gilbert, Senior Editor, Yahoo! Tech.
Leaving a contact in a press release is a must. Another tip is to include the country code in the phone number, especially when you are sending out your press release globally – a journalist simply won’t bother to try the phone number with different country codes. The phone number should also be directing to a person who is reachable, so that journalists can contact you immediately if they have any questions regarding your press release or if they want to follow up with you.
Author: Catherine Wong is the Senior Editor at PR Newswire Asia’s Hong Kong Editorial team. She has joined PR Newswire since 2013.
1) Research States That Prejudice Comes from a Basic Human Need and Way of Thinking. (2011, Dec. 19). Retrieved Feb. 21, 2017, from http://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/releases/research-states-that-prejudice-comes-from-a-basic-human-need-and-way-of-thinking.html#.WKvu1X3QMQl
2) Wynne. R. (2014, Feb. 24). What Journalists Really Think of Your Press Release. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/robertwynne/2014/02/24/what-journalists-really-think-of-your-press-release/#203be2886781