PR - a journalist's view

Like a vintage-obsessed Clark Kent, when I'm not indulging my ego as a jewellery-making entrepreneur, I'm a working journalist. Mostly I write about music and the arts, but at Uni I specialised in fashion journalism.
Now I've been on the receiving end of a lot of press releases - good and bad. And now the shop is functioning, this weekend I need to get cracking on the Made With Love releases. But to be helpful, I thought I'd share some dos and dont's when it comes to writing your own press releases - from a journalist's perspective.

  • This is the most important thing I can tell you - look for a news angle. Your mere existence does not constitute news and does not entitle you to a feature - you have to find a hook.
    Being local or new (or, better, local and new) is always a good start, but also look at how you fit in with current fashion trends, consider what makes your product unique or highlight something exciting you've done recently.
    Having a sale or special offer is not a news angle, sorry.

  • Don't sound too "salesy" - you might think that using loads of OTT adjectives like "gorgeous", "amazing" or "spectacular" will make your product sound more attractive, but to a journalist it's more likely to cause irritation.
    Words like that are only likely to be cut out or, in the worst case scenario, a busy stressed journalist will decide they can't be bothered and chuck your release in the bin.

  • Include hi-res, well taken pictures wherever possible - if you are sending your release by email then there is absolutely no excuse not to.
    Style your pictures with props and backgrounds to look more professional - get ideas out of magazines - but also include pictures on a white background that can be easily used as a "cut-out". Picture desks will thank you for it.
    If you are sending a physical release, it is a great help to include a jPeg on a disk.

  • Don't use exclamation marks or words written in capital letters - you are not 12 years old, and it does not make you look "cute" or "kooky".

  • If possible, check the publication's house style and tailor your release accordingly - how do they write dates, what tone do their pieces take?
    Yes it takes time, but the easier you can make a journalist's life, the more likely they are to use your stuff - and to use it repeatedly.

  • If you are contacted for further information, quotes or pictures, respond as quickly as possible.
    Deadlines are often tight, and even if the publication date seems a long way away most journalists juggle several features at once, and their stress levels rise if they have to wait more than a few hours for a response.
    Leave it too long and you might get cut out altogether.

  • Always remember lead times. Christmas and Valentines Day are great for targeting gift guides - but not if you get in touch two days before the article is due to run.
    Find out what date the publication comes out and make sure you send you info several weeks in advance - then follow up with a phone call or email.
    Features desks usually know when they will be running gift guides, so ring up and ask.

  • Lay out your release so it is easy to read.
    Don't run loads of sentences together - split them up. Remember the "point per paragraph" rule - say one important thing per paragraph.
    If you are sending a physical release, include some small pictures to catch the eye and avoid looking text-heavy.