Social media platforms and the internet have ushered in new tools and strategies designed to help organizations get their news picked up by reporters.  

Yet, schools and nonprofits continue to send press releases to dozens, sometimes hundreds of editors, reporters, bloggers, and podcasts, without getting any response. 

Journalists who have weighed in on the matter—those who receive dozens and, in some cases, hundreds of press releases each day—say they need a break from sifting through garbage in search of gold.  Journalists’ biggest complaint is against those who send them press releases about topics they do not cover, which usually happens as a result of blanket email blasts.

To ensure your press release rises to the top, you must immediately grab the reporter’s attention.  To get their attention, you need to know what interests them. Once you know what interests them, you must develop headline hooks and first paragraphs that sound like packaged news pieces.  

And so, if you are targeting the right reporters but not getting pick-ups, you might want to analyze your approach. You need to be sure the email subject line sends a clear message that the contents are gold, not garbage.

With that in mind, let’s look at five tactics to get your press release noticed by busy reporters.

1 – Make your story relevant to reporters

The first step in making your story relevant to reporters is to make your story relevant, period. It’s got to be newsworthy.   Then make sure the press release is pertinent to the media’s audience. Most importantly, only target reporters covering your press release’s topic.

Look for crossover opportunities as well. Suppose you are a nonprofit focused on raising awareness about a particular disease. In that case, you generally will not get an education reporter to cover your events that are not held at a school. But if you are doing an event at a school, now you can pitch education reporters along with those who follow the medical issue you address. Relevance is key.

Speaking of relevance, here are a few areas reporters always welcome:

  • Offer Exclusive Research: Reporters like press releases with facts, data, and citations they can easily confirm. Give journalists a press release that includes surveys, polls, and unique research, and they may give you a story. The more your press release sounds like a summary of what will be the reporter’s finished work, the more likely your piece will get picked up.
  • Bring them Breaking news: Most media venues want the latest news as it emerges. Be the first to share information, and you’ll have coverage.                                                                                                                    
  • Develop Emotionally Charged Content: Journalists know that topics that move the heartstrings resonate with their audiences and stimulate social media traction. Your press release is more likely to be covered if it stirs up strong feelings, whether good, bad, happy, or sad.

2 – Create an Attention-Grabbing Headline

An intriguing headline that effectively and briefly summarizes the story will get your press release to the top of the pile.  As we pointed out above, help reporters separate your gold from the garbage with a targeted headline. And don’t get bogged down in being creative at this point—you just need to get in the door. Get to the point and get in.  Use a straightforward, brief headline that tells them what is going on.

3 – Sound like a News Story

Under the pressure of daily converging deadlines, reporters and editors are always strapped for time. If you can get them to visualize a news story in just a sentence or three, you are on your way to a media hit. The more your press release sounds like a news story, the more likely you will be covered.  One old, simple, but tried and true rule is to build your press release on the “5 Ws of a News story.”  Doing so will enable journalists to determine if they are interested quickly because you will have built your press release using the same framework upon which they build their coverage.  Putting facts upfront saves a reporter time, and if your work is the ticket to the journalist meeting a deadline, you will likely have coverage. You will reap what you sow.

4- Include Quotes

Quotes liven up news releases as they add personality to the story—provided those being quoted have something to say—and a good PR executive can make the most mundane shop talk sound interesting. It just takes a little work.  Make sure your quotes support your story. Choose the best quotes that add the perfect touch.  Reporters are always looking for a person to whom they can attribute the press release’s message points.  Give them that, and you are yet another inch closer to publication.

5 – Include Boilerplate Plugs

Add an organization boilerplate to the end of your press release. A boilerplate provides information about the organization that might not be part of the story but should be known. A boilerplate contains approximately 30 words about the company’s size, its location, when it was founded, etc., and the remaining 120 words should be about what makes it unique. Make sure to mention anything that makes your school or nonprofit stand out from others

Include these five steps in your press releases and watch your media hit ratio skyrocket.



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