Adhere to Best Practices, Follow Guidelines, and Write for Your Audience
By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
Consider this: “ABC Company, a strategic provider of advanced business technology applications to facilitate organizational utilization of game-changing convergent networks, announced today the release of its unprecedented Widgetizer solution, which is guaranteed to revolutionize existing technological infrastructures overnight.”
This is a fictitious example of an all-too-common press release. It’s a lesson in how not to submit press releases. On any given business day, I receive multiple news announcements and an article or two. Only a small percentage ever make it into print or get posted online.
Although the practical restriction of limited space in a printed medium is one reason, the reality is that most submissions were doomed from the start—much like the above example of verbosity.
Whether submitting a press release or trying to place an article, when you seek publicity, understanding how publishing works is the first step toward successful placement.
Target Your Submissions
When submit press releases or content to a periodical is not like shooting a shotgun, where pellets disperse in a general area with the hope of some hitting the target.
Rather, getting published is more like firing a rifle, where a single, carefully aimed bullet has a good chance for success when you submit press releases. True, not every shot will hit, but the chances are much greater than just blasting off a shotgun in all directions.
With email, the temptation is to fire off hundreds of messages at every possible target, regardless of how relevant. Doing so, however, reduces your thoughtfully composed prose to spam, earning it a quick end and damaging your reputation as an email marketer.
A carefully targeted approach is a better way to go.
Know Your Target
My first article submission was published. This gave me a false sense of success. I assumed getting published was easy. The reality was that I knew the target publication. I’d been a subscriber for years. I faithfully read each issue and understood the content and style of the articles they used.
The same applies when you submit press releases.
Tap Online Resources
Most periodicals have websites, which often post useful information for aspiring contributors. The first step is to check their website for direction.
My publications’ websites, for example, give guidelines for writing and submitting articles and press releases, including the preferred length, the method of submission, writing style, and so forth.
In today’s publishing world, some editors will respond to emails about submissions, but most do not. Contacting them when you shouldn’t will just irritate them. Only reach out when needed and according to their online submission guidelines.
At best, hope for a brief response. Today’s editorial staff must do more, in less time, and with fewer resources. Don’t take it personally if they ignore your email or send a terse reply. Make the best of any communication and move forward.
Know Your Subject
My first article was “All About Pagers.” I knew the topic well, working for a paging company and with several years of experience. You’d think my writing would have flowed easily. It did not.
As I began to write, I realized how much I didn’t know. Fortunately, I was able to find the missing pieces and fill in the gaps. The result was an informative submission that clicked with the editors.
It’s easy to spot—and dismiss—authors who write about things they don’t understand. Don’t be one of them.
The quickest way for you to be ignored when you submit press releases and articles is to assume the rules don’t apply to you. Editors more readily use material that follows their guidelines and needs less editing.
They don’t make rules just because they can, but to make the process easier for everyone.
If they request your submissions via an email attachment (my preferred method), then do it. Other publications avoid attachments and prefer the text be in the body of the email.
Also, if a piece is too long, the publication will edit it for length. The reality is, when an editor is on deadline or pushed for time, content requiring significant editing will often be delayed or deleted.
Increase your chances of publication by simply following directions.
Don’t Miss Deadlines
Deadlines exist for a reason. Without them, a publication would never make it to the printer. Be aware and follow submission deadlines (usually posted online and printed in each issue).
If you promise an article by a certain date, don’t miss it. If you want your hot news item to be in a specific issue, get it in on time; sooner is better. Weekly papers—and especially magazines—have a much longer lead-time than most people imagine, so be aware of it and adhere to it.
Third Person Preferred
Writing objectively in the third person gives your piece integrity. It’s more credible. First person is never acceptable in news releases as it comes across as self-serving, bragging, or unnecessarily introspective.
Always write press releases as an impartial third party. Articles generally work best in this same style. Notable exceptions are how-to pieces and first-hand accounts—such as this book. If you have any doubt about which style to use, act like a reporter and write in third person.
Too often, I receive press releases and articles that have serious errors. Some writers didn’t even bother to spell-check their work. This is a sure way to lose credibility and frustrate an editor. Make their work easier by double-checking yours.
Enlist the help of a coworker or hire your own editor. It’s not realistic to successfully proof your own work. This is because you know what you intended to write, so that’s how you read it, easily overlooking errors and mistakes.
It’s tough to work hard on a piece only to have someone else change it. Similarly, it’s easy to become enamored with what you wrote, wanting to see it published verbatim. But this is unrealistic.
Even the most experienced authors have their work edited. This can be for many reasons. A common one is length, another is style, and a third is content suitability.
Sometimes giving a piece a different slant makes it better fit a publication’s focus. Or an editor may remove a section because it doesn’t work well with the issue.
Although some publications have a reputation for twisting, manipulating, or even corrupting an author’s work, most make a good-faith effort to retain the writer’s intent and present their work in a positive way.
The more spectacular the language, the less believable it is. Overused words include “unique,” “revolutionary,” “leading,” and “premier.” Avoid them in your writing.
Exaggerated copy and unsubstantiated claims only serve to push away readers and weary editors. Yes, clever wording has its place, but when it surpasses the message, something is wrong, and clear communication doesn’t occur.
There’s no guaranteed way to get your news item or article published, but implementing these ideas will increase the chance of that happening.
Marketing Tactics Success Tip
The more effort you put into crafting a professional and engaging piece for a publication or website, the greater the likelihood of having it published.
Peter Lyle DeHaan is an entrepreneur and businessman who has managed, owned, and started multiple businesses over his career. Common themes at every turn have included customer service, sales and marketing, and leadership and management.
He shares his lifetime of business experience and personal insights through his books to encourage, inspire, and occasionally entertain.