E-Mailing Press Releases to Journalists

by Hoa Loranger and Kara Pernice on January 19, 2009

Summary: 3 design guidelines for sending press releases to journalists by email.


This article is excerpted from the report on PR on Websites. (The full report is available as a free download.)
See also: summary of this research on how journalists use PR sites.

The goal of this study was to review organizations’ public relations on the Web. During the study, journalists offered information about how they use press releases that are e-mailed to them, and which presentation is most effective.

Several journalists said that they didn’t use most of the press releases that were e-mailed to them. Many said they read a very small percentage of them, and still others said they read them all. Journalists in the last group we tested, however, received fewer than 10 releases per day.

Note that unsolicited releases via e-mail create a very different reaction from when journalists seek out releases on a specific topic.

PR Guideline #101. In the e-mail, provide a short, clear subject line.

Several journalists said they scan the subject line of the press releases in their inbox, and delete those that don’t quickly make a point.

  • “Last night I got 85 e-mail messages, a lot of those were press releases. Only two were people with whom I have correspondences, the rest were press releases. ... I browse through them because I don’t want to miss anything. It may be a rare case. I only get a story from about 1%.”

PR Guideline #102. Send the e-mail from a person that the journalist is most likely to know or remember. Do not send it from a generic e-mail address.

Journalists said they are more likely to open emails from people they know.

  • “I get a lot. It is all about the subject line and the person who sent it to me. It really helps to know the person who sent it to me.”
  • “AOL has a clipping service, so I am getting 75 per day from that. I get a mix from the clipping service and PR people. I have been freelance for four years now. That makes me a little harder to find. As a freelancer, companies don’t know what to do with you as much.”

PR Guideline #103. Do not send more than one press release per e-mail.

A few users said press releases are easier to deal with when they get one per e-mail.

  • “There are clipping services – the most useless of them is the e-mail with 20 press releases in one file. I don’t use a lot of those ideas. I’d rather have 20 emails so I can glance through the subject and just delete them.”

(See separate guidelines for presenting press releases on your own website.)

This article was excerpted from the report on PR on Websites. (The full report is available as a free download.)
See also: summary of this research on how journalists use PR sites.


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