The answer usually includes “contacts”, “grapevine”, “sources” and if they are being honest “press releases”.
Journalists have always used press releases but never as often as in these austere times, when newsrooms are expected to fill more pages with fewer writers. With less time to cultivate sources they are forced to fall back on oven-ready material from the PR industry.
Flicking through The Times this morning I counted 17 stories in the main news section which I guessed were inspired by press releases and at least double that number in the business pages.
These stories represent a tiny fraction of a mighty deluge of press releases sent to journalists every day. Many of them are badly written and the vast majority are deemed unsuitable and never see the light of day.
The best ones make headlines because they have news value, meaning that journalists see immediately that readers will be interested.
You don’t have to employ a PR agency to do this, although if you do it saves time and effort and is more likely to be successful. But if you have good language skills and plenty of time you can build your own list of media contacts, find out what they want, write your own press releases and try your luck.
If you are setting up a small business this is can be a cheap way to get publicity, and you might benefit from a PR skills master class from Dorset Chamber on “How to Write a Great Press Release”.
Deep South Media’s Ron Wain, pictured, a former business editor, will be outlining how to write the perfect press release including:
• Getting attention with an eye-catching headline
• Covering off all the questions a journalist will ask
• Targeting your release to the chosen audience
• Accompanying the release with a strong image.
– GARETH WEEKES, Deep South Media Ltd.