Marketing On A Limited Budget:Writing the Proactive Press Release

by admin on October 17, 2017


We can do things that professional marketers cannot do.

Marketing:“It’s your job to make the story come alive.”

“Success With the Media”

I wrote, “Success With the Media, Everything You Need to Survive Reporters and Your Organization” (available at Barnes and Noble and Amazon at because I believe that organizations need to look inward to get better media results.

I use contents from the book for this article.

Some believe that we should not talk to reporters. I maintain that not talking leaves you without influence; you are committing yourself to a negative story. The trick is to know how to talk to the media.

See the entire series at  LeonardSipes.Com.


Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr.

Thirty-five years of supervising award-winning media relations, radio and television; over fifty national and regional awards. Interviewed multiple times by every national news outlet. Post-Master’s Certificate of Advanced Study, Johns Hopkins University.


“It’s your job to make the story come alive.”

Up to this point, we’ve focused on media relations strategies that involve reacting to requests or events and personal survival skills. Now it’s time for an entirely different perspective.

In the Introduction, I said, “The most important aspect of taking a long-range view is building relationships. We cannot succeed unless we build meaningful and productive interactions with the media and the public. Everything we are and all we can be must be built on trust.” I tried to convey the need to create relationships throughout my book, but marketing takes public interactions to a different level.

Marketing may be one of the most important things you can do to keep your organization safe and goal-oriented. Constant self-initiated contact with reporters and the larger community sends a message—we’re ready for discussion; we’re ready to engage; we’re not afraid of our issues.

Media interviews work within the context of knowledge and trust. You cannot do a good job responding to media inquiries if the media know little or nothing about you. To do well, you have to market. Many on the receiving end of constant negative media inquiries are the opposite. They never engage. They never invite the public in for a dialogue. They give the impression that they have something to hide. To survive, news organizations need to see you as honorable people doing an honorable job.

To do well, you have to market. Many on the receiving end of constant negative media inquiries are the opposite. They never engage. They never invite the public in for a dialogue. They give the impression that they have something to hide. To survive, news organizations need to see you as honorable people doing an honorable job.

Writing the Proactive Press Release

If you intend to announce a formula for turning rocks into gold, you do not need to offer anything more than a grammatically sound news release. The announcement of a cure for the common cold could be the most boring and lengthy news release in the world, but it will still work because of its subject matter. Writing the promotional release, however, takes a bit more ingenuity.

I was once told that are no rules to writing the promotional news release. I won’t go that far but I do believe that considerable amounts of creativity and ingenuity are called for. You want to separate yourself from the mundane releases (ninety-eight percent of them) that go nowhere.

Spend a day in a television newsroom (yes, they will let you). Sit down with the young interns and lower-level employees who read incoming media releases. Ask them what attracts their attention, and prompts them to notify their assignment editors.

They will tell you that you have to establish your premise in the first two or three sentences. To do this, I use multiple headlines. I will use four and sometimes five headlines in large type to ensure that my point is made in the least amount of time. I know that my carefully crafted media release (that has been reviewed internally by everyone except the Pope) will live or die on the headlines. Whatever it takes, your appeal must have the ability to grab the media’s attention and keep it.

Press release writing is an art unto itself. I submit to you that your headlines and first two paragraphs must communicate in such a way as to grab the person by the throat, throw him down to the floor and scream that your event or product is worthy of consideration.

If that involves three or four headlines of multicolored print in grammatically incorrect form that would embarrass your fourth grade English teacher, but forces the reader at the television station to pay attention, then you have successfully accomplished your objective. You have communicated.

Yes, I’m exaggerating, but not by much. We must be bold, creative, and sometimes just a little silly to get our point across.

The Rest of the Press Release

Per research, press releases with audio, video and photographs attached can get up to ten times the exposure compared to those without attachments. Tie your press release to your web and social media sites; offer video and audio. Beyond multiple and crystal clear (perhaps clever) headlines and the very judicious use of quotations from executives (exclude them if possible) the rest of the media release also needs attention.

The first consideration is that it should be as short as possible. Use large type (12 to 14 points) and short paragraphs. Brevity is next to godliness. Offer the basic elements of any issue or event. Describe the “who, what, when, where” elements of your story, devoting a sentence or two to each. Well-crafted releases describing who, what, when, and where plus a point of contact may be all you need. If you need descriptions of the product or policy you are trying to promote, then use very brief paragraphs. Your media release, under any circumstances, should be no longer than two pages. You should strive for a one-page media release.

The bottom-line issue is its interest to media and the larger public. Spell out your visuals. Give examples of the possibilities for sound that will entice radio stations. Describe your human-interest story in compelling terms. Tell readers how you will make it easy to cover your event. Tell them how the story connects with their readers, viewers, and listeners.

But there is a contradiction here. We have said that your mission is to make the reporter’s job as effortless as possible. That is difficult to do in a one-page media release. There may be a wealth of materials (or other possibilities) that greatly add to the reporter’s ability to do his or her job. If that’s the case, then briefly advertise the availability of these materials and offer them to the reporter through e-mailed copies or by posting them on your website. Offer anything that works.

Note that many news organizations frown on e-mail attachments due to the possibility of malware. Put the material on your website and provide links.

Be sure to include your telephone number at the top or bottom of the release. Please remember to include after-hours numbers just in case they want to call you in the evenings or on the weekends. Your willingness to supply information off-hours can make a considerable difference as to whether your event is covered. Provide a cell phone number for the day of the event.

Distributing the Press Release

You need to have a comprehensive list of everyone in your market who could have influence. Segment the list by type of media. Obviously, you need a list of media contacts, reporters, and assignment and future editors. But don’t stop there. Include talk show hosts, bloggers, local newspapers and social media representatives. If they have an audience, market to them. I’ve known some who include religious leaders and their flocks in their distribution schemes.

There are a variety of surprisingly effective methods for distributing your news release. Simply e-mailing or faxing it to your intended audience is one of many options. Note that faxes are becoming obsolete and that some media have stopped taking them.

If you’re trying to entice media, the best way is to e-mail the release to targeted reporters with personalized messages. Include a brief note telling them why this story is worthy of their interest. Include their names in the title and briefly describe the offer (“Hi, Tim. Dynamite visuals on Thursday,” would be my pitch to the photo desk of a newspaper).

Phrases like “I have some great visuals to go along with the story,” will be useful for television reporters. Or “this person is incredibly interesting,” will be useful for a print journalist. To radio people, I emphasize great sound or the ability of a person to tell an interesting story.

Segment your lists. There is no sense in sending a geographic-specific release to the entire state or region. You may want options for bloggers, podcasters, assignment reporters, future desks, talk shows, morning news people, and others.

Ensure that your press release arrives no later than 5 a.m. Your notice must arrive in time for the morning broadcasts and decision meetings, often conducted at 8:00 or 9:00 a.m. Depending upon the importance of the event, I will send my notices several times to the same source. Often I will give them a week’s notice. The second will go out two days before the event. A final notice will be sent the day of the event (marked “Today—Today—Today” at the top of the release). I will strive to offer something new, however small, in each media release. Yes, this is probably overkill, but overkill may be necessary when you are competing against so many.

As much as possible, call the newsroom and find out whether they have received the release. I have been told many times that they would have covered my event if they had known about it (yeah—I know—it’s probably just an excuse). Just because you sent the release and confirmed that it went through does not mean that the right people are aware of it. As stated, newsrooms receive hundreds of requests every day. It is very easy for your release to get lost in the volume.

Calling key individuals (assignment or feature editors) and asking them if they are aware of your news release is a critical part of your strategy. You will find yourself resending the release to many. One way to avoid doing this is to not e-mail your release. When important enough, I will drive to select media and hand-carry the release to the right person. At times, I will also include a box of donuts with five or six media releases attached to the top. You may suggest that this is a bit hokey. You’re right; it is. But I have found that a box of freshly baked donuts will get their attention every time.

Again, depending upon the importance of the situation, I will use Federal Express or Priority Mail. The bottom line is that I will do anything to make sure that my message is in the hands of the right person.

Next Up

More on building relationships and marketing.

Success With the Media

For more information on good organizational and media relations, see “Success With The Media: Everything You Need To Survive Reporters and Your Organization,” available from Barnes and Noble and Amazon at  Your reviews are appreciated.

See my website at

Contact me at


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