December 08, 2010
/ by Katrina M Mendolera
The 1906 Atlanta City train wreck is credited with producing the first modern press release when Ivy Lee – considered the founder of modern public relations – and the train company collaborated on a release to send out to journalists before the rumor mill could take hold. Although much has changed with the advent of the Internet and social media, keeping a press release targeted and interesting are techniques that remain the same. Recently, magazine editors dished to inVocus about some of their favorite releases in 2010, as well as what formula goes into making a standout press release.
A colorful and unique subject line from Tandem Literary Agency got Ladies’ Home Journal senior articles editor Louise Sloan’s interest. When pitching the book “Marcus of Umbria,” the press release author titled the subject line: “What an Italian Dog Taught an American Girl about Love.” The author of this particular press release was thinking in terms of how an editor would use the information to create a story. In bullet points, the topics, themes, and article ideas were outlined to be quickly used by editors. Short blurbs critiquing the book by popular authors were also included. After reading the press release, editors had a substantive sense of what the book was like and how it could be used as editorial content.
A number of editors reported that in 2010, they received overwhelming amounts of press releases that were completely irrelevant to the magazine’s upcoming topics. So be sure to “niche the pitch.” “What’s most useful to news and magazine editors is to get press releases best tailored to their specific beat. Most PR agencies spend so much time banging out these press releases. If they spent more time researching how to pitch specific people, they would get more bang for their buck,” said Newsweek articles editor Andrew Bast.
Other editors are looking for releases to be succinct and detailed. “Many press releases are filled with too much romance language, lots of adjectives and other words that don’t describe the actual content,” said Interior Design Magazine senior editor Mark McMenamin.
The same ideal holds true for Westchester Magazine articles editor Marisa Lascale, who prefers the important information to be at the top. “I handle a lot of calendar events so it is best when press releases have the what, when, and where clearly stated,” she said. Her favorite press release in 2010 came from a local playhouse publicizing an Indigo Girls concert. “This is effective because all of the important contact information is at the very top, the nitty-gritty info about the event is just beneath it, and then there is a longer description of the event,” she told inVocus in an e-mail. “I have all of the information I need at my disposal, but I don’t have to go searching to find the important details.”
Whether it’s a release about a dog and love or a concert, formatting a press release that is targeted, colorful, detailed and succinct provides the information in a way that journalists can use them, making it a win-win situation.
— Alicia Misci
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