Stories break so quickly these days that news and media outlets are under more pressure than ever before to not only report them first, but to ensure that content remains fresh and immediate. The advent of social media has meant that even a minute here or there makes all the difference to securing a scoop or having the latest content available.

For those involved in public relations and marketing communications, the debate continues to rage about the best time to send out a press release, but the fact is that most journalists won’t worry about that for a minute – providing they’re the ones getting it first!

So, with the immediacy of your news arguably now one of the most critical aspects in securing coverage in top-tier titles, how do you approach distributing it in a way that ensures it has greatest impact at the same time as reaching your target audience? And, if you are going to offer it exclusively to a journalist or media outlet, how do you decide who you give it to?

It’s my party

The first thing to remember is that it is your news. Perhaps you’ve spent the last six months implementing a project for a high profile customer, or maybe you wish to highlight record-breaking quarterly figures or a leap in sales. Then again, it could be that the product you’ve spent so long developing and fine-tuning is finally ready to be shared with the world.

Whatever it is, if you’ve deemed it news worthy and have taken the time to commission a press release, it’s worth taking the time to consider how to exploit it to its maximum potential. We’ll assume (for the sake of argument) that you’ve followed our guidance on press releases and that your release is well written and newsworthy.

Given the competitive nature that exists within the press today, many journalists will insist on exclusivity. Either they’ll want it before you send the press release to everyone else, or they’ll insist on being the only one you speak to about your news – or both.

Granting exclusivity in this way usually guarantees more than your average press release coverage. The latter, known as ‘wallpaper’ coverage in the trade, is all well and good. It keeps news ticking over, is a boost to your SEO and keeps you on the radar of your target audience. But in offering your story to a specific journalist or title first, you are handing them the opportunity to break your valuable news to the world. As such, there are several factors to consider.

So who to invite?

First and foremost, do your research. The audience profile of the title you have selected is critical. Key factors are circulation/traffic and whether it is audited regularly, as well as whether a detailed demographic breakdown is available – including information such as type of audience by role and industry, if it is a business-to-business title.

It’s also important to do your research on exactly who you’re giving your news to. Plastering the word’s ‘UNDER EMBARGO’ in big bold letters over your press release is by no means a guarantee that the embargo will be honoured. Indeed, most PRs and their clients now recognise that the notion of an embargo ensuring a story remains under wraps and then hits the street at a specific time and date, and via a particular title, went out with the Ark!

And as highlighted by the phone hacking scandal in the UK, the media is ultra competitive and some are prepared to go to extreme (and illegal) lengths to gain the edge. So take the time to get to know them. Speak to a journalist about the possible angles they might take to your specific news item, ask them where they think the story fits into the wider scheme of things and make a judgement based on these conversations.

Play it smart

Taking the time to plan your approach to distributing news exclusively should not only secure great coverage for your press release, but ensures that you nurture a more fruitful relationship with a journalist, who will then also know that little bit more about you. Crucially, they can be confident that when you offer them something on an exclusive basis, that is exactly what they’re getting. What’s more, they will sit up and take notice when you call or email them in the future with the promise of something big and hand-picked just for them.

By the same token, offering ‘exclusives’ to more than one journalist is counter-productive and damaging for all parties involved. Even if you do manage to garner two or more great pieces of coverage for the price of one ‘exclusive’, you can be sure of one thing: the journalist will never willingly cover you again.

Ultimately, with each news announcement being different, it is important that you don’t pigeon hole yourself to one title or journalist. So play it smart. Identify the audience that your news will be of most interest to, take the time to have conversations with the relevant journalists before you make a decision and then you can make an informed choice as to who it is that will be responsible for breaking your big story.

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