Where and how to send your release.

The first thing I'm asked by people doing publicity for the first time is "Does your directory list E-mail addresses?" Their main interest is sending their release to as many places as possible at no cost. They are then puzzled why so many editors become irate, accuse them of spamming and ask them never to send them anything again. Use commons sense. Don't send your announcement about a fund raising car wash for the Boy Scouts in Dublin, Ohio to a radio station in Florida. Don't alert the editor of a plumbing trade magazine about a new restaurant opening. Don't send a weekly community newspaper anything except local news or events that will impact them directly. Don't expect TV stations to be interested in your new website devoted to collecting seashells. I think you get my point.

You can't go wrong if you print your release and put a postage stamp on the envelope. It will also force you to target your media effectively. I'm not saying E-mail is a bad thing. An appropriate story sent to an appropriate outlet is a good thing; just be sure those two criteria have been met. Faxing a release to the media is standard practice. If you want to send to all 1,500 Daily Newspapers and don't have the five hundred plus dollars for stamps, consider getting an unlimited long distance phone plan (I've seen them for as little as twenty or thirty dollars a month) and start sending faxes. It may take several days, but won't cost you very much.

I'm often asked, "Does your directory list editor names or reporter names?" Except for magazines, we do not. There is no real magic in using a personal name on a press release. Use titles instead. A release addressed to "Food Editor", "PSA Director" or "City Desk" will surely be directed to the proper person. In general, use the following titles to address your releases, unless you know a particular organization uses a different title that would serve better:
  • Daily newspapers: City Editor (Unless you intend to reach the Food Editor, Business Editor, Entertainment Editor, etc.)
  • Weekly newspaper: Editor
  • Magazines: Editor or Managing Editor
  • Radio stations: News Department (or PSA Director if you are sending a public service announcement)
  • Television stations: News Director

Should you contact the media before you send your material? Should you follow-up afterwards? Let's assume you have actually built a better mousetrap. I'd probably target the "Home and Garden" editors at all Daily newspapers, but I wouldn't try calling all fifteen hundred of them. But if I found ten or twelve trade magazines related to the pest control industry, I'd probably give the matter some personal attention. I might drop the managing editor a quick note saying that I'd be sending a release in the near future, or perhaps get them on the phone and very politely and briefly ask them if it would be alright to send them a story and photo of the mousetrap. I would not try to pitch the story at that point. Just touch base, that's all. If you are at a loss for words, here's a cue card:

"Mr. Jones? My name is Mark Gebbie and I've just built what I think is a better mousetrap. Getting some ink in "Pest Control Illustrated" would be most appreciated, so I'd like to send you a press release with your permission. Might I send you the story along with a photo?" Mr. Jones will likely say "Sure, go ahead." At that point you might say "Great, I won't take up any more of your time and I'll get this out to you today with my thanks."