Branding and advertising messages can be both offensive and defensive – which may be why it seems to be everywhere these days. Added to the barrage of news and other content coming in to your RSS reader, news apps, email newsletters you’re subscribed to, social media streams, your work and personal email inboxes–you’ve got information overload.
We no longer need to search out the news–the news finds us. A study on media usage and ad exposure revealed that a typical adult’s daily media consumption was nearly 10 hours. In addition, other studies support that various message exposure is in the range of 3,000 – 20,000 a day for each person. Whoa! No wonder we so often feel overwhelmed!
And, that’s the “average” person. Imagine how journalists and bloggers must feel. Journalists have to be masters of information management—especially given that they are receiving upwards of 100 pitches a day. (Makes my head hurt just thinking about it!)
As The Media continues to evolve many newsrooms have switched to more hyperlocal formats, and journalists are finding that they are wearing other hats beyond that of journalist, including business person and manager.
Seth Godin wrote and has famously been quoted, “Once you overload the user, you train them not to pay attention. More clutter isn’t free. In fact, more clutter is a permanent shift, a desensitization to all the information, not just the last bit.”
To simply stop issuing press releases or pitching the media isn’t really an option, so how do you keep yours from being lost in the thicket of information and adding to the fatigue of digital overload?
- Craft the perfect headline. It should clearly epitomize what your press release is about while including keywords (for SEO). Try to get it down to 10-12 words or less, although some suggest 16-18 words is okay. You might even try a headline analyzer like one of these.
- Lead with the hook. The lede (first sentence or “hook”) should be clear and concise. The news in your news release has to be obvious. The longer you take to make your point, the higher the chance you’ve already lost the reader.
- Ditch the fluff. State actual facts – products, services, events, people, projects. Avoid jargon or specialized technical terms.
- Set word limits. You may be surprised to note that the average word count for winning email pitches has dropped to about 150 words, according to a PRSA post by Michael Smart. The press release should not tell the whole story but simply an idea of what their readers need to know.
- Timing is everything. Especially now that everyone is vying for the (limited) attention of key media. The content itself should be relevant and fresh – not too far past and not too far in the future. Sending the pitch out, try to avoid major event coverage times (like political elections, the Olympics, popular holidays, or other high-profile occurrences).
- Target distribution. I won’t go into detail in this post why this is so important. However, I will say there is absolutely no excuse for lazy pitching—spamming hundreds of journalists on the off chance someone might ‘bite’.
How are you tailoring your media outreach to fit the evolving needs of journalists and bloggers? If you’ve given your press release or pitch a makeover to keep up with the times, how successful have your efforts been? Please share your thoughts!
A version of this post originally appeared on Fresh Ideas in December of 2010 and was updated in June 2019.