The Coordinate team recently hosted the very first Craft ACT MAKE:OVER workshop—a masterclass designed to upskill a select group of Craft ACT’s talented members in branding, media and social media.
Together with my colleagues Dean Christie and Payton Gregor, it was a great opportunity for Coordinate to share our skills with some of Canberra’s most talented established and emerging makers and artists.
Wearing my HerCanberra Online Editor hat, just before lockdown I also had the pleasure of talking media releases with the good folks at Canberra Innovation Network for one of their member webinars.
These opportunities meant I spent oodles of time talking about what makes a good media release—as well as what you should avoid—and why it’s so easy to get your story in front of the right people, at the right time, with the right pitch if you just follow a few simple steps.
Unsure what those steps might be? It’s easier to nail—or tank—an approach to media than you might think.
Naturally, all media releases should include a pitch. What do you ideally want to get out of this media outlet? A blog post? An article? A shout out on their Instagram story?
As you’re creating your hit-list of media contacts it’s worth doing research on what they publish across their platforms—and what they don’t.
If you’re publicising a book you’ve just written, do they have a book review columnist or would they likely be more likely to include your book in an Instagram flat lay of summer reading essentials?
If your product is skincare, do they post about gifted products on their social channels (appropriately declared, of course!) or would they be more likely to publish a pre-written Q&A with the founder?
Knowing what content holes you can potentially fill in your desired publication’s schedule will help you nail your pitch—and make it easier for media to say yes.
Gone are the days when publishers had full teams of photographers just waiting to be assigned a job. These days, most small digital publishers rely on supplied images—so including professional (or at least well-framed and clear) images with your release will maximise your chances of coverage. It’s all about making it as easy as possible for the media outlet.
If you’re sending a link to images, be sure to check your sharing settings. I can’t count the number of times I’ve received a Google Drive link that hasn’t allowed public access. Dead end.
If you’re sending one image, try attaching it as a single low-res JPEG or embedding it in your release. If you want to share an album, a public Dropbox is best.
The easiest way to get a story in the works? Provide quotes. These are the building blocks of any story—lifestyle, news, blogs—and offer an easy shortcut for writers to create content.
While most journalists will follow up to get a fresh interview for their story, not everyone has time. With quotes, you’re doing them—and yourself—a favour.
Avoid formatting nightmares
Personally, I prefer to receive releases in both the body of the email and attached as a Word document—that’s right, a Word document. PDFs look more professional but if a writer wants to whip up a story quickly using the quotes you’ve provided, a Word document will expedite this process.
However—a word of caution. Including your release in the body of an email can easily upend any careful formatting.
Pro tip: First send your email to other accounts you hold with different providers to check the formatting carries through. This is especially important if you’re using Gmail as it seems to have the most issues.
Media will tell you how to contact them—listen
Sending your release to a generic first-point-of-contact email may seem like you’re sending it to the void, but trust the process.
Even if you have a full list of contacts, sending it to someone senior may result in your release ending up in an inbox chockers with competing priorities and it may get missed (guilty as charged).
If an organisation’s website or social channels encourages you to get in touch via one email address, believe them. If a publisher’s Instagram bio asks you not to send them a DM…you know the rest.
Attention to detail is harder than you think
Personalisation is a nice touch. I’m not saying it will get you everywhere but taking the time to address writers or editors by name when you’re sending a mass release is a great start—just make sure it’s the right name. I always chuckle at being called Beatrix or Bae instead of Bea, but for some people, it will be a dealbreaker—we’ve all seen this TikTok.
Sending something nationally? In this day and age, it’s important to note the current restrictions. No point sending an article about travel destinations to an area that’s totally locked down.
Reaching out via social media? It’s a good idea if you follow the publisher first.
‘The natural next step to sending out a release is to follow up those contacts you don’t hear from.
The nature of the pitch will depend on whether this is through an email or phone follow up, but the advice is the same: be kind and courteous. The old adage, ‘You catch more flies with honey than vinegar is as relevant as ever in the internet age—perhaps more so.