Recently I had the pleasure of participating in a media round table luncheon hosted by PRSA Colorado.  I was asked questions about newsroom staffing, editorial decision making, press release preferences, best newsroom contacts, best times to call, and much more.   It seems I’ve taken a lot of questions about press releases lately; or maybe it’s because the luncheon happened not long ago so it just seems like a lot more than normal.

I haven’t written much about press releases since Good-bye press release I didn’t even open. I admit I was pretty harsh in what I wrote – even though it’s the truth and I stand by every word still today.  I don’t want to come across nearly as harsh in this and I definitely don’t want to imply I or other journalists know it all.

In fact I know of a reporter who recently left the industry to go into the PR field.  The news desk received this person’s first press release this week and I wanted to scream.  The date of the event was in the very last line of a two page press release with a link to a web page to get the rest of the information, such as time and location.  I literally banged my head lightly against the desk and wondered how this former-journalist didn’t get it.

In light of the above I humbly submit the following 10 press release etiquette tips and requests:

1.       There’s a reason every journalist and PR professional is taught about Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How in class 101.  This is the meat and bones of any story and press release.  If it’s not at the very top, like within the first two paragraphs, the likelihood of your event being filed decreases and its chance to be trashed increases exponentially.
        Out of the famous  W’s & H, the most important in releases promoting a future event is the when.  Often I look for the date and time only so I can file it for future discussion.  To be brutally honest I don’t care who’s going to be there or why the event is happening until the day before or the day of the event.
        I’m dealing with a dozen or so tasks at the same time that are relevant to that day, to the upcoming newscast, that are under deadline when your release shows up in my inbox.  The last thing I have time for is searching for that information.  If I have to search I often leave the press release in my inbox with the thought that I will get back to it later when I have time.  Next thing I know I have several of these releases waiting for me at the end of the day because I haven’t had time earlier to do it.  Guess what?  These releases often get deleted because my mind is tired.  I admit this is a fault of my own and that I should put in the extra effort to search for the simple details of time and date, but I don’t always do it.

2.        The press release needs to be in the body of the email so I’m not forced to open a document to find out the pertinent information.  Attachments are great for supplemental information and to have as a second copy of the press release, but should not be how I have to access the 5 W’s & H.  This doesn’t just make it easier for me, but guarantees that I receive the information.  There is no guarantee that your attachment will make it through the system firewall or can be opened on my computer system.  

3.    Press releases with large attachments that fill up my inbox will be deleted.  I try to save and file the info but if the attachments aren’t necessary for covering the event, they won’t be saved.  I know you think everything you send me is necessary to cover the event, but I’m sorry often they’re not even opened.  Everything you’ve attached, I expect to be able to gather at the event.  This isn’t just me being lazy.  This is a matter of space.  I can’t even begin to describe the amount of media that comes into a newsroom every day.  There simply isn’t enough space or memory to save it all.  So I save only what is needed and trash everything else.

4.    When possible use a social media press release or web based press release, such as is created through PitchEngine or Webb PR’s Media Rich Platform.  (This does not mean you don’t include the basic press release, the 5 W’s & H, in the body of the email; ALWAYS include that information in every email.) Instead of sending several attachments use a system where I can access all that information, pictures, videos, background information, etc., on the web so I’m not forced to delete it or use precious space and memory in the station systems.
        The other benefit of this is that I am a firm believer in utilizing social networks at all times.  When you provide information online for me, I’m more than happy to share the links through Tweets, facebook or other networks.  This link can also be included in the web story that the station posts on its website.  Even better is a Tweet or Facebook like button that I can easily click, share and be done.

5.    While hyperlinks are awesome and make an email press release easy to use, I also need to ask you to include the full web address, or at least a shortened link like  The news system I use, INews, does not read hyperlinks.  I don’t know of any news system that does read hyperlinks.  When I copy and past information into the system the link is lost.  If you want to use hyperlinks in the body of the email for a clean look, I suggest that you put all links you’ve used at the bottom of the release so when I copy and paste the addresses are saved.  This way when I or others have time to look over the information we can copy the addresses and go to the web to open the information.

6.    I’m at a station where most everything needs to go through us on the assignment desk.  Each station works a a litter differently, so call and ask the best way to submit a press release.  If you have a reporter or producer you routinely work with, send the pitch to them, but I suggest you also send it to the desk just to make sure it’s seen.

7.    Each station is different.  We look for different ways to tell stories.  We have news goals and identities to guide us.  Tailor your pitch to fall in line with the way the station would cover the story.  If you know a station looks for the health angle in most stories, in your release point out the health angles.  This extra work on your part may get your pitch on top of the pile of pitches.  If you don’t know what a station wants, call and ask.

8.    Follow through with a phone call to the assignment desk, reporter or producer, to make sure your email was received and ask if any more information is needed.  You can ask if we’ll cover it, but if the event isn’t that day, you’ll be told that the decision on coverage probably won’t be made until day of the event.  Instead ask what time our editorial meetings are so you can call back on the day of the event to find out coverage decisions after the meeting has ended.  Or call in that reminder pitch before the meeting with the understanding that even at that time you may not get an answer yet on if there will be coverage of not.

9.    Do not call within an hour of news time.  We’re on several deadlines a day and are busy trying to meet those deadlines.  The closer it is to deadline the less I want to talk to you.  If you call close to deadline I’ll probably only be able to give you part of my attention.  If things are really crazy my brain may not be able to retain anything you just told me.  When you call always ask if it’s a good time to talk.  Even if you’re calling hours before a newscast, there may be breaking news or just general business of the day that would make it a bad time for you to call.

10.    My newsroom coworkers may skin me alive for admitting this, but goodies sent with your release does not give your event higher status than any pitch we receive.  I won’t lie food or other fancy items sent to the newsroom will probably bring attention to your release by many in the newsroom, but that still does not guarantee that you will get any coverage.  So while every part of me says - send the yummies - I in good conscience cannot tell you this is a good practice.

I mentioned I participated in the PRSA media round table.  I was interviewed after the event regarding today's newsroom.