If you send out media releases but don’t take the time to follow up, you’re robbing reporters of a good news story and
you’re cheating yourself out
of valuable publicity. Here’s why it is important to follow up on media releases...1) Your release gets buried under a number of other media releases that might not be as interesting to the reporter; 2) Your release get caught in the reporters’ spam filters; 3) Sometimes a simple nudge makes the difference between getting media coverage and no attention at all; 4) The squeaky wheel gets the publicity and it will always be this way.
Here’s a typical follow up phone call to a reporter: “Hi, this is Janey from ACME Organization. I was just calling to see if you received the media release I sent you on Tuesday.”
This follow up call does nothing except interrupt the reporter. It serves no useful purpose and is a waste of their time. Instead, talking about the information in your release in terms of how it can be useful for their audiences and why they might care.
Every reporter is looking for content, exclusives, new information and a fresh angle on a news story. The best way to draw attention to your media release is to make a follow up call soon after you send out the release.
How can you make a follow up call to a media release worthwhile and effective?
- Do your homework on the reporter, the program, the publication or blogger and be familiar with the beat they cover and the things that interest them.
- Find the right fit for the story – is it a business story, a sports story, a lifestyle feature, or a special event announcement? When you call, explain why you think the story will appeal to their readers, viewers or listeners.
- Research the reporters before you send out your media release. Review their blog, Facebook and Twitter accounts. Follow them for a week or so to find out whether or not the story you want to pitch is of interest to them before you send them your release. You might come across other reporters that might be even more interested in your news.
- When you call, make your pitch short and sweet. If you can’t say it in less than 45 seconds, it’s too long. Offer them some special arrangement that is not detailed in your release. You might say for example, “We can give you the first pictures inside the new hockey arena and an interview with the design team.” Or, “The Acme Organization has just signed a major sponsorship agreement with the Servus Credit Union which will allow us to send 80 more youngsters to our hockey camp.”
- It’s a good idea to hold a piece of information back from the release so you can mention it in your follow up call. For example, “Hi, I’m calling to follow up on a release I sent you on Tuesday about the Young Women’s Leadership Centre for the YWCA of Edmonton. What’s really interesting about this announcement is that Alison Redford, the Premier of Alberta, is going to announce our new Centre on November 7. At the same time, she is going to announce an initiative that the provincial government is undertaking to provide scholarships for young women. Is there any other information you might need to cover the story?”
- You can follow up by email, too, and the same principles apply: keep your pitch short and sweet, make the headline compelling and offer even more information that is included in your release.
- Don’t start pitching your product, service, your company or yourself. Keep the focus off you and on the benefit/solution your news offers their audiences.
- Write a script for your follow up call. Then practice reading it until you don’t have to read from the script anymore. Don’t read from it. Your voice will not sound natural or enthusiastic, two key elements important to connect with a reporter.
- Get the timing right. If it is a news story that needs to be produced that day, make the follow up call a couple of hours after sending the release. If the story has a longer shelf life, wait a couple of days before making the phone call.
- Make your pitch, talk about the news story and then ask the question: “Is this something you’re interested in?”
If their answer is no, ask them who else in their organization might be interested in the story. If the answer is yes, you’re off to the races.
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