Julia Kendrick advises on effective methods of creating your own PR material to achieve business and marketing needs
First and foremost, a press release is a highly focused way of communicating to your targeted audience through a source that they trust: the media. Picture what you want the headline to be in a newspaper, take the time to develop a high-quality press release which gives the journalist everything they need to develop a great piece, and you’ll maximise your chances of securing fantastic coverage. A word of caution, however, as with all PR approaches, you do not have 100% editorial control of the final outputs. The journalist will take your release and implement their own perspective, experience and research angle, so you need to stick to some key rules to ensure your messages pull through.
Before we get started, it might be useful to consider the most common press release faux pas – as any journalist will tell you, these mistakes are seen time and time again, despite being very easy to avoid:
In my experience, a press release is rarely written in ‘one go’ from start to finish. It’s important to put yourself in the journalist’s shoes – test the strength of your story by asking some key questions to help shape your approach before starting, like “So what? Who cares? What does this story give me?” By making sure your release is newsworthy, timely and has a clear relevance for their readers, you can overcome those early hurdles as a journalist assesses your story.
Overall, your release must answer the five Ws: the WHO, WHAT, WHY, WHEN, WHERE and HOW. The more you can do to provide the journalist all the information without them having to do additional research, the better your chances of coverage. It is also crucial to keep your release clear and concise – just one page long and clearly structured to capture interest.
Other ways to strengthen your release could include linking to an existing story in the mainstream or local press, offering different opinions, insights or data. For example, if your release is talking about a new dermal filler product or technique, you could link torecent stories talking about latest trends or statistics of increased cosmetic procedures. Case studies or quotes from other expert sources can be compelling additions to underline your key messages. Press releases also don’t have to be text only: you can improve your chances of grabbing attention by including infographics, images and illustrations that you own the copyright for. Just beware of file sizes – compress any images to avoid overloading their inbox or being diverted as spam.
Now that we have finessed our approach and gathered our ‘raw materials’, we can look at how to combine everything into a strong release structure:
I always recommend a personal approach: don’t underestimate the importance of addressing the journalist by name
So you’ve drafted your release, proof-read it thoroughly and you’re ready to send it out to the media. Where do you start?
Nowadays, 99% of news releases are sent via email – you will either need to do this manually by building up your own distribution list, or alternatively there are a number of online distribution services which allow you to upload your release and send out to a pre-defined list of media contacts. These distribution services can be free or paidfor – thus reflecting the quality of media outlets reached. They often share health and beauty news, connecting journalists, companies and PR professionals. However, the disadvantage is that you lose a personal approach and connection with the media contacts, and it can be difficult to find a service that targets the specific media that you need for a medical aesthetic story. Your media distribution list should be tailored based on the content and relevance of your news story. Consider which media contacts will want to receive your release – be that medical trade press, regional newspapers, local magazines or even national press. If creating your own list, you can research publications that have written about similar topics, find the most appropriate journalist to contact and source their email address through Google. If you can’t find a relevant individual journalist, find out the contact details for the editorial team or newsdesks, who will then field your release to the appropriate contact. Of course, don’t forget to add any media contacts with whom you have a personal relationship.
An important consideration is finding out when the publications targeted go to press – be this daily, weekly or monthly. If you can’t find this information online, it’s best to give them a call as this will inform you of when you need to send your release to maximise the chances of it being seen and covered. The last thing you want is to send something just after the filing deadline, as not only will you miss this window of opportunity, but your release could end up on the bottom of the pile for next time as newer items come through.
I always recommend a personal approach: don’t underestimate the importance of addressing the journalist by name and including some details of why you think this story is relevant to them, or their particular publication. Maybe they wrote about a similar topic recently? Maybe their publication includes a regular ‘beauty’ or ‘medical’ focus section? The more specific you can be, the better – there’s nothing worse than a blanket approach of ‘Dear all’! Keep your email short and to the point, and don’t forget to include details of any further information available on request, as well as your contact details for any additional queries. It’s a good idea to paste your release into the email body, as well as attaching as a word file (preferably not a PDF) as sometimes there can be issues with attachments not opening or incompatible files. Be conscious of file size – 1MB is the maximum total for any attachments, so make sure you compress any files, and particularly images.
Resist the temptation to chase the journalist if you don’t hear anything after an hour or two – they will get back to you if the story is of interest or if they need further info. If you still haven’t heard anything after a day or two, get in touch, (preferably by phone for a more personal approach), to check whether they received it and to ask for feedback. It’s always useful to understand their take on the release and what they might like to receive from you in the future.
You should now feel more confident about creating your own press releases and leveraging these to drive your business marketing objectives. Whether it’s profiling a new treatment offering, highlighting a clinic launch or just developing your own media profile and presence, the media represents a key channel to engage with both new and existing patients in a credible way. By adopting a tailored and personalised approach, as well as ensuring your releases are structured, relevant and compelling – you will maximise your chances of successfully navigating through the media ‘gatekeepers’ to secure valuable coverage of your clinic and services. Ultimately, this approach will help you to build the foundation for ongoing media relationships and will eventually deliver benefits for your business.
“Like most journalists, I receive an enormous number of emails a day. I do look at all of them – but unless their headline message is very clear and enticing, I am unlikely to read further than the first few lines.A large number of releases are sent to me as image files – I am sure they are gorgeous but my laptop does not automatically download them, so unless they have a particularly exciting message in the subject line, I am unlikely to stop and download these one by one. As such, they are, in effect, wasted. Ditto the releases that are sent as attachments. Really, what I prefer is a personal email with the message kept short and sweet, pointing out why the story is right for me.
If it’s of interest, I will follow up fast enough!”
Freelance beauty journalist