Don’t treat every press release the same

Hannah Brazee Gregory
Hannah Brazee Gregory

Hannah Brazee Gregory

If your nonprofit goes through the same motions each time it sends out a press release, it is time to take a good look at your approach.

Just organizing the information to fit in a press-release format and sending it out to your media list isn’t enough.

If you are wondering why some organizations get more attention than others – it’s in the details.

Sure, it helps when you have a great story to tell – but that alone isn’t enough if the pitch for that great story is not being thrown correctly.

Do you have different lists for different types of press releases? This is where the novices get separated from the seasoned pros.

You would be surprised to find out how many calendar editors receive hard news releases and how many news editors get calendar listings.

Journalists are extremely busy, and on top of that, they are receiving dozens of press releases and story pitches each hour (and in some cases, each minute).

Do them a favor and customize your press-release distributions.

Understand who is on your list. If you manage a small media-contact list and you have never picked up the phone and spoken to them directly, now’s the time.

Ask them what their role is and what types of subjects they cover. How do they prefer to receive releases? Email? Fax? A short email pitch (and no release)?

If your list is larger, you may not be able to call each one, but you should take the time to look at each contact on that list.

Understand your list. Are the email addresses general ones or personal (news@ or jon@). What types of media outlets are on the list? Television? Daily newspapers? Weeklies? Magazines?

Each one of these categories is completely different from the other and the same press release shouldn’t necessarily be sent to them.

If a news release doesn’t offer an opportunity for good video, television news simply is not going to be interested.

And magazines plan their stories months in advance, and have published editorial calendars you should become familiar with.

If your organization has regular events (such as performing arts and community events), it is extremely important to understand how the local papers manage their calendar listings.

If you know whom to send them to, by when and in what format, it is almost guaranteed free publicity.

If you aren’t having any luck but notice an organization that is, simply try giving your counterpart at that organization a call and asking them out for coffee to discuss his or her genius. Learn from others.

Know when not to send a press release. If you have a small local paper that loves publishing stories like “local business gives free color copies to nonprofit,” then go ahead and send it – but only to them.

Your organization’s website is also an appropriate place for a story like this (also, be sure to have the business publish it on their website and in their company newsletter, if they have one).

But don’t send non-newsworthy items like this to your media contacts. That’s no way to get their attention.

Here are some related tips articles that will also be of assistance:

Hannah Brazee Gregory is a nonprofit marketing expert and founder of Shoestring, the nonprofit’s agency. She can be reached at or 1-888-835-6236.

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