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If for some reason you decide you want to irritate me by email, there’s a very easy way. OK, the easiest is telling me I’ve won the UK lottery or that you’re a Nigerian prince in a tough spot (unless there’s a funny typo in there — I’m a sucker for a good typo). But the second-best way? Send me a press release. It doesn’t matter if it’s on a topic I write about or one I’ve never heard of — I hate press releases with a burning passion.
Journalists are supposed to be impartial and unbiased, so when someone approaches me who’s being paid to promote a specific product or service, I’m instantly wary. The moment I see a press release, I give it a scoff of irritation and and quickly hit delete.
I admit: Sometimes press releases work well. Newsworthy topics can get a positive response, and online journalists use press releases frequently. But if you’re pouring money into press releases that aren’t getting you any publicity, maybe it’s time to re-examine your strategy.
Now for the good news.
There are other ways to get your name and your company’s name in front of potential customers — and they’re free. Journalists spend a lot of time looking for sources to interview. If you’re qualified to provide insight, you may well get better exposure than any ol’ press release could provide. Think about all the expertise you’ve gained in X during your X number of years in the X business. Surely these topics are in the news from time to time.
Maybe you’re an underwater photographer, and could comment on the decline of a particular type of fish. Or perhaps you’re a teacher who runs a pet-sitting business on the side, and could comment on how hard it is to make a living wage as a teacher these days. Giving the media insight into any of these topics can help provide valuable exposure for your business.
I’m not suggesting you pretend to be an expert when you’re not. I’m suggesting you think about the ways in which you genuinely are an expert in something, then find the journalists who are writing about these topics.
So how do you find the right journalists? You may already know some of them. Think about the blogs, newspapers, TV programs and magazines you already pay attention to that cover your field. Consider sending the journalists an introduction email, perhaps commenting on a recent article or report they’ve done. (We love knowing that people are paying attention to our work!)
Here are some other ways to up your odds of getting quoted:
- Make sure journalists and editors you meet know what you do. If I’m looking for a bakery owner to interview about the rising cost of flour, and I remember someone I met a few months ago, I’d rather go to him or her than spend time searching for someone else. Likewise, sometimes a magazine editor will provide the name of someone I should interview, so even if an editor you know doesn’t do any actual writing, he or she may be a useful contact.
- Use social media. If you know me, you may know that while I’m liberal with the F word, I don’t take the T word lightly. So believe me when I say that in this case, both Facebook and Twitter are your friends. Find journalists who specialize in your field. Follow them. When they tweet about needing to interview someone who fits your description, let them know. (Bonus points: If you know someone else who fits the description, make the introduction. We will love you and be 10 times more likely to use your expertise in the future).
- Sign up for Help a Reporter Out, Reporter Connection and News Basis. Here’s how it works: Journalists post a description of whom they’re looking to interview, and potential sources can email them with why they’d be perfect. Just make sure you really do fit the bill before responding to a query.
- Lastly, follow up. If you initially get a positive response from a journalist but then don’t hear back for a couple of weeks, write to him or her again with a polite reminder. Be persistent but not annoying, and you may strike gold.