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July 5, 2010 / Alex Robertson

Press Releases – Advice from the Executive Editor of the Scotsman

I’ve had tough times with the media in the past – perfectly innocuous stories about my company being published with PANIC headlines – and must admit to viewing the printed press as mostly hostile and fairly impenetrable.

So it was an experience to attend a talk last Wednesday which challenged my view a little. It made me think again about the benefits of dealing with the media correctly.

The talk was by Scotsman executive editor Bill Jamieson who won the 2009 Business Journalist of the Year award. It was, in all, an interesting and well run evening by the people at Capital Events with canapés and (shudder) networking on the amazing and beautiful roof garden of the Glasshouse hotel.

Bill and Perry

He talked about being an entrepreneur or business in a recession and what advice he and his various friends had for companies at this time. One useful contribution from Linn entertainment systems creator Ivor Tiefenbrun was to take the cyanide capsules before we cut our wrists!!

Apart from that diamond, there was some genuinely useful advice on using the media for the benefit of your company, namely through press releases.

For people who work in consultancy, software or business development and social media I think that its often hard to capture the attention of even the local press let alone the national papers.

So here are a few tips from an industry leader!

  • Never write more than 300 words (prefer 200) and make sure you copy the style of writing used in your target paper
  • What, when, who, why, where – and no jargon.
  • Try and engage with trade press – most business and technology sections in the bigger newspapers pick up their stories from there
  • Take advantage of set pieces of news- If you spot something relevant to your sector being written about in the national press, use the opportunity to send off a press release to the papers.
  • Try and send it to the journalist you want to write the piece (business/tech editor) – not just the main news desk
  • Make the Story individualised and personalised – remember that the journo is not interested in your company – he wants a good story

On top of this there were a few definite no’s.

  • Don’t spam the news desk.
  • Don’t send pictures of men in suits
  • Don’t have “solutions” as part of your company name, journalists get confused between all the companies providing solutions and will never remember you
  • Again – NO JARGON

During the question session Mr Jamieson provided some interesting advice for those who are able to coax a journalist out to cover an event or launch. Provide the Journo with a 200 word story about the event including quotes and including the ever necessary what,when,who where and the most important WHY. This makes the happy journalists job easier and means its more likely for the story to be written with the slant you were looking for.

The printed media can be a disaster, sometimes preferring shock headlines and gossipy stories rather than news about a brilliant young company doing interesting things. Perhaps a few of these tips can help you navigate past the dangers of the news desk and get yourself some column inches.

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