How to be a journalist’s dream

Have you ever sent a great news story to the media which just hasn’t been picked up? Unfortunately, just having a great story isn’t always enough. You see, journalists receive hundreds of press releases every single day and a lot remain unopened.

Particularly for freelancers, time is money so you’ve got to make sure your press release stands out. You’ve also got to make it really easy for the journalist to understand your story before they lose interest and move on to the next. You’ve probably got less than a minute before they hit delete – tough love but true.

If you’re doing your own PR for your small business, here are my top tips for boosting your chances of getting great coverage by becoming a journalist’s dream:

  • Stand out subject line: If you want your release to be read, you need to grab the journalist’s attention and make sure they open your email. This starts with creating a compelling subject header that summarises what your story is about. Give them a reason to open your press release over the many others they will receive that day.
  • Don’t bury your top line: Most journalists will just scan a release – they don’t have the time to read every release in its entirety. So don’t make the mistake of burying the most interesting part somewhere in the middle of the copy (commonly known as the top line). Make sure it’s in the very first line under your header so your reader understands the news angle and connects with it immediately.
  • Put your press release in the body of the email – Never send news releases as pdfs or documents with embedded logos and images. They are difficult and time consuming to unpick. Keep it simple by putting your release in the body of an email so the reader can easily scan it. A freelancer or journalist who is pressed for time will just ignore your release if you make things complicated for them by adding in unnecessary steps. I’m not sorry, it’s fact.
  • Be helpful – Help them find case studies, even when you are not the right fit. This is how you become memorable. This is a great way of building a relationship and trust with a journalist – particularly with local journalists who will be very grateful for the help. Sadly there are likely to be fewer local reporters as the years go by, but those local relationships could end up becoming national leads if they move on to bigger things. Never neglect people on their way up the ladder, or you may find they do the same once they reach the top.
  • Picture perfect – Always have a good up to date, colour, landscape image to accompany your press release in decent resolution, 1MB minimum in Jpeg format is most commonly preferred. Landscape photos are much preferred by the media as they fit their pages better and are easier to crop. Landscape can become portrait far easier than the other way round.
  • Do your research – It helps if you do a bit of research on the journalists you intend to send the release to, so that you’re confident they’ll be interested. There’s few things worse for a journalist than getting releases so far outside their remit and specialisms, it’s a surefire way to get your name blacklisted! For example, it’s a waste of everyone’s time if you send a story about a new tech product to a politics reporter, it’s almost guaranteed to be deleted. So do the most simple thing first; research.

With a long career in journalism and television, I know what a story should look like and who might be interested in it. Although I have my PR agency, I am still a working journalist today, supplying articles to local magazines, making television programmes (both factual entertainment and current affairs) and writing for specialist publications, so I still know what works, when and where. If you would like any help with your PR or information on my DIY PR training courses, please do get in touch.

Fiona Scott has more than 30-years media experience as a journalist in print, broadcast and television, which she still maintains while running a successful media consultancy from her home in Wiltshire – a county she is passionate about supporting. She’s also a guest director on the BBC day- time series Flog It!, and is an ambassador for Swindon 105.5 community radio.

With a vested interest in supporting SMEs, Fiona now uses her extensive career to support and coach business owners with their own media journeys – offering practical and supportive advice to help them to tell their stories and show off their best assets. For more information visit