When I first started at KWSM three years ago, one of my first tasks was writing and distributing a press release for a client. This was entirely new to me, and I didn’t really have any idea where to start – that is until I learned the ropes from our PR team, who had been helping clients gain media attention through press releases for over a decade at that point.
Learning to write a press release was a journey in and of itself, but what I found the most interesting was learning how to get the most eyes on the story and how to get the right eyes on it – ones that would be likely to read it and distribute it.
There are two primary methods of distributing a press release, each serving a different purpose – sending the story to a carefully curated media list, and putting it out for general consumption “on the wires.”
2 Options for Press Release Distribution
Over the last three years, I’ve seen that the two avenues are often best used together, rather than solely relying on one or the other. Here’s why.
Building A Media List
After your press release is written, you’ll want to source specific media outlets, reporters, trade publications, influencers, bloggers, and so on, who have a direct tie to the subject matter of your release and are therefore most likely to find interest in your story.
While it can be helpful to cast a wide net by sending your story to as many people as possible (which we will talk about next), you’re far more likely to get a bite by fishing in “smaller ponds with hungrier fish,” so to speak. Who will be the hungriest for your news specifically? Those are the contacts to put on your distribution list.
When I make my lists, I always include fields like their first and last names, email addresses, the name of their publication/outlet/blog/etc., and their area of expertise. That way, when I send my release to them directly, I can write a customized pitch that addresses them by name and details how my story provides value to their audiences specifically. This level of personalization has always resulted in the best open rate and pick-up rate. Why?
Because while all of the other businesses who are submitting stories at the same time as me are writing about themselves and their news, the first thing these media outlets read from me is a statement about how this story can provide value to them. Plus, it shows that I’ve done my research and hand-selected them to receive this story. It shows exclusivity, intentionality, and care.
Putting Your Press Release “On the Wire”
After you have your bases covered with a solid media list, it can’t hurt to allow even more outlets to pick up your story if they so choose.
While media lists allow you to write custom pitches and send your story straight to the inbox of your chosen contacts, putting your release on a newswire allows the chance for thousands of other media outlets and newsrooms to see, read, and maybe even pick up your story if they find an angle that serves them. No personalized pitch here, just a way to put your news up for grabs to as many people as possible.
You may be asking yourself why you can’t just put your release out on the wires and forgo spending the time making a media list. Any journalist will tell you that they see hundreds if not thousands of press releases on the wires every day – it is nearly impossible to break through the noise and get the coverage you’re looking for simply by throwing your story into the mix. For this reason, a wire service should merely be an extra addition to your PR efforts, not the sole distributor.
There Are Platforms That Can Help You!
A good PR software platform can help you with both types of press release distribution.
At KWSM, we use PR tools to source and save our media lists for all of our clients and allow us to search through contacts based on industry, subject matter, and the type of news channel they work in. We’re able to see each contact’s audience size (followers and reach), social media handles, brief summaries on who they are and the stories they like to pick up, and how they prefer to be contacted.
With platforms like this, we are able to build lists easily and save them for future releases that should go to the same contacts. That way, we can add to the list over time and avoid having to duplicate our work the next time big news for one of our clients rolls around.
We also post our stories on the wire for thousands of websites, journalists, bloggers, search engines, and social media networks to see.
Using a platform is also helpful because it offers in-platform reporting, allowing us to see which contacts opened and read our release. Tracking those KPIs allows us to make note of who is the most interested in our clients’ news, and better analyze our pitches, titles, opening lines, and other factors that can make or break the likelihood of a contact taking interest in our story.
While this is our preferred method, you can avoid the fees of a 3rd party platform by doing your own research to develop an email list of trade publication contacts and distribute the press release on the wire yourself.
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