Press releases: Create a killer pitch that gets the media's attention every time

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What You’ll Learn:: 

Think of a husband—well, like Michael Long’s father—whose wife asks him to screw in a loosened socket or fix some doohickey around the house.

Rather than go down to the basement to rummage about in the toolkit, Old Man Long would use a butter knife from the cutlery drawer. The knives got dinged, the screw was never tight enough, and Mom was unhappy.

“The press release is basically the butter knife of the PR writers’ toolkit,” says Long. “They end up dragging it out for everything in the world, and most of the time it’s a poor choice.”

In a Ragan video titled, “Create a pitch that gets the media's attention every time,” Long offers a format that works for every organization: Government, political campaigns, corporations, celebrity publicity, nonprofits. And it elicits calls back from reporters.

In this session, you'll learn how to:

  • Gain leverage by using what you know about reporters' habits
  • Rely on the power of information instead of hoping to be "clever"
  • Use the psychology of reading to get reporters to start reading—and keep reading
  • Make your point quickly and effectively

A press release isn’t about clearing your desk or making the boss happy. It has just one goal: eliciting a call back from a reporter. Your catch-all announcements breathlessly marked “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE” are part of why press releases have such a bad reputation.

Learn to keep your goal in mind. You want journalists to read it, “and then I want them to pick up the phone or send me an email and say, ‘Tell me more,’” Long says.

Remember that nobody cares. It stings to hear that, doesn’t it? But face it, journalists aren’t nearly as impressed by your new hair gel/toboggan wax as your bosses are. If you remember that nobody cares, you’ll purge your news release of the self-indulgent or boss-pleasing prose that causes reporters to spike it.

“I always imagine that the idea I’m pitching is the least attractive for an obscure organization on a topic that nobody wants to hear,” Long says.

Hear about the difference between “do” and “applaud” press releases. Long breaks down the two styles and their different purposes.

Find out how long it should be, and why you need to use lots of white space. The point of a press release is to act as bait, Long says. Lure the reporter.

Tired of blasting press releases into the ether and never hearing back? Change all that. Join Michael Long for this session.

November 2013

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Presenter bio: 

Michael Long

Michael Long is director of writing MPS/PRCC at Georgetown University. Long is an accomplished speechwriter and educator and award-winning playwright. He has written remarks for members of Congress, U.S. cabinet secretaries, governors, diplomats, businessmen and -women, CEOs, and presidential candidates. He is the director of writing in the masters program in public relations at Georgetown University.