A publication such as Australian Reseller News receives approximately 50 media releases a day, five days a week, most weeks of the year. Such monstrous in-trays force editors to become quickly proficient in categorising stories.
Being aware of the same considerations which drive this preliminary selection will improve your chances of eventually being published.
Many computer industry publications are divided into sections. Amongst other things, these can include news pages, which are generally written by in-house journalists, features which comprise up to 2,000 words, product announcements, letters to the editor, opinions by senior industry figures and technology evaluations.
It makes sense to write your media release so that it targets a specific section. To do this, write it the same length as the stories written in the target section and try to more or less adopt the same style. You could even go one step further in making it easier to categorise by including the name of the section in your release.
Different editors have differing views on exactly what tangible qualities make up the newsworthiness of a story. They range from a large sale, to a relevant change in government legislation, but almost always include how-to stories, user stories, future predictions or survey results stories or product comparisons.
Customising your release
A "how-to" story is aimed at the more technical readers. It should include statistical and technical data. For example, your organisation may have just finished installing a large network or computer system. You could write a story on exactly what steps you took, products you evaluated and exactly how you managed to hang it all together.
Beware of plugging your own product or services. If you do, your story runs the risk of simply being filed under the sales hype category which is located under the desk and emptied each evening. Readers are surprisingly astute and if interested they will not have any trouble locating your organisation or products. A "user story" is slightly different. It is about a successful user site which may have used an unusual combination of equipment. Quote the site manager only. The story should begin with the most unusual feature about the site, followed by a few supporting paragraphs about that feature, before branching out into mainstream information about the site. This would include information such as configuration, the type of business being supported and maybe even historic data.
A user story is always more appealing when it solves problems. One way to achieve this is to include both the good and bad decisions taken during the installation.
A "future predictions" story comprises bold predictions about a particular industry or technology. Most people love to read about the future. If you have the courage and qualifications, these stories are always very popular.
The results of any surveys tend to produce a similar style of story and once again form popular reading. It is best to use the first paragraph to succinctly feature your best claim, and the following paragraphs to support the claim.
"Product comparisons" are usually performed by an independent test house linked to the publication; however, you may be successful in having any in-house competitive marketing analyses published if they are independent. It would pay to call ahead and discuss your plans with the editor for this type of story.
If you have a hard-hitting story, similar in content to any of the stories already published in the news pages of your targeted publication, you can initiate its publication with a simple telephone call to the journalist to tell them about your news and invite them in for an interview.
Forgo the temptation to invite them to lunch unless you already know them quite well. Journalists in the computer press get more lunch invitations in a week than most people get in a month. Ensure you have a colour photograph organised in advance to hand over during the interview, and some supporting documentation.
A news story is normally offered as an exclusive or to one publication only.
"Product announcements" are usually between 300 to 400 words or less which describe the release of a new product. Once again it is wise to include a photograph and price to increase its chances of being published.
Occasionally journalists will rifle through a pile of product announcements until they find one with a nice photograph, so they are assured of at least one photograph on the particular page of the newspaper they are editing. Product announcements may be sent everywhere.
"Letters to the Editor" provide an opportunity to have your say about a story or view that has already been published.
It should be concise and timely so it may be published as quickly as possible. But if not, they are practically always published anyway.
Next time I will cover the fundamentals of writing a media release which gets noticed.
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