As a crafter/designer, I know there can be nothing more thrilling (and potentially profitable) than seeing your name in print.
As a full-time journalist, I know there is nothing more likely to go straight in the trash folder than a bad press release.
How do you maximise your chances of your local newspaper, glossy mag or specialist crafting magazine taking notice of you?
I can't guarantee that these tips will get you press coverage, but they will certainly help.
1. Get the right person.
Buy a copy of the publication or visit their website and find who the best person to contact is. Any email that starts "I'm not sure if you're the right person..." goes straight in my trash folder - it suggests that the sender has no respect for my time, which is over-full as it is, without wasting my time reading things that aren't relevent to me. If in doubt, ring and find out. While you're at it, find out what their deadlines are - and stick to them.
2. Get to the point.
I don't want to read a load of waffling. I want to know why this release should be interesting to me.
3. Include the details.
That's not to say that a couple of lines are enough. Put the hook at the beginning, but then make sure you include all the important details, plus contact details. Don't just put a MySpace or website link and expect the journalist to click through and find additional info for themselves - they won't.
4. Put your release in the body of the email.
Remember, not all computers are compatible with each other. Even different versions of Windows can save differently - we regularly receive attachments in a .docx format that we can't open. And there's no point - why waste time with an attachment, which on an overstretched network can take up to a minute to open, when you can just put it in the email?
5. Spell it properly.
There is nothing more offputting than bad spelling, poor grammar or horrible formatting. Use a spellcheck, and paragraphs. If your spelling isn't great, get someone to check it for you. Mistakes look unprofessional, and mean a busy journalist won't take you seriously.
6. Make sure your pictures are good enough.
There's nothing worse than a decent story accomapnied by blurry, out of focus or simply too small pictures. For print, pics need to be 300dpi - the file size should be 100kb at least. Anything smaller than 50kb is definitely going to be too small to use, and could result in your release being put on the "deal with later" pile... and forgotten about.
7. Be polite.
You would be amazed how many emails come across as demanding, or whingey. They don't get anything, no matter how well written they are. There are hundreds of people out there clamouring for attention - you should make the journalist want to write you, rather than feeling that they couldn't bear to spend five minutes in your company.
To help you see what I mean, here are a few examples. Here's an example of the bad:
For a start, Dave Magilton is the sports editor. Of the Bolton paper, not the Bury one. He certainly doesn't care about grime. I am the entertainment correspondent, and I probably would do. My email address is freely available through the entertainment section of our website, so it's not rocket science to get hold of it.
Secondly, there is no excuse for that spelling and punctuation. How am I to believe that these people are serious about what they're doing if they can't even take the time to run a spell check? I know they're young, but frankly that's no excuse.
But the most unforgiveable thing is that this email had no contact phone number. Despite the horrendous spelling and inability to find the right recipient, it could have been an interesting story. I emailed him using the return address, but never heard back. Big black mark, and into the trash folder it goes.
And the good:
It's polite, enthusiastically written (without dozens of exclamation marks), to the point, to the right person and has all the information I need. We wrote about their event, and I believe it was a great success.