How I wrote a press release that was read by 50% of the journalists I sent it to

This is going to be the first of a series of articles about my research & experiences.

I would like to start with a fact: I am not a marketing expert. I never learned or practiced marketing. I never wrote a press release. If you are reading this, chances are, your situation is quite similar to mine.

Things change, and now I am the co-founder of a startup that teaches English words with movies and TV shows (you can search for Skeebdo on the App Store or Google Play). Guess what, I am representing the marketing side of the company. So I need to learn a lot, and learn fast.

Let’s get to the point.

I am not going to write things like “keep it concise”, “demonstrate your abilities” or “be engaging” because you must have read those a hundred times already. I will tell you how I did it.

Do you research

I spent around 20 hours reading articles, success stories, how-tos and watching videos about how a PR should look like and how to reach out to journalists. I had a thousand questions like

  • How long should the PR be? Should I put everything in it? Or should it only be a bullet point list?
  • How many journalists will open my email? How do I make them open it?
  • Should I place the name of the company in the email subject?
  • Shall I put an emoji in the subject that highlights my email from the hundred journalists receive every day?
  • Should I attach images to the email, or just send a Google Drive link?
  • Should I send the PR as an attachment, or just add it as plain text?
  • How do I address journalists?
  • When should I send the email?
  • Shall I send my PR to all the journalists at once or send it to only 10-20 then to another 10-20 the next day?

I am going to answer all these questions and more in these 3 articles.

After long hours of research I thought I had all the answers I wanted. Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, but I was confident.

There are 2 keys to get the journalists to read your email

  1. Send your email to a journalist who is likely interested in your topic.
  2. Create an interesting subject.

If you have a tech startup, don’t send your email to companies that target women (unless you target women). Women usually don’t care about your brand new high-tech gadget so your email will surely land in the spam folder. The journalists will know you were just sending out a bulk email and didn’t really care what topic they are usually writing about.

Once I wrote my press release I came up with a factual, but kind of interesting subject: “A Hungarian startup teaches English with movies”. To you, this might sound boring, but as a Hungarian startup, this is exciting for the Hungarian press. All the keywords were in it: Hungarian, startup and what it’s doing. Do not add emojis in the subject because it cries for porn or spam. The press release is an official statement of the company, not an invitation to a weekend party. Your subject shouldn’t be longer than 5-7 words. If it is, certain email clients will truncate it, and even if they won’t, long subjects are less catchy.

One more thing to answer a question above: the email did not have any attachments. I don’t know which email client journalists are using or how much space they have in their inbox so I didn’t want to risk my email bouncing or making journalists frustrated by sending them a huge email.

That’s all there is to know about getting journalists to click on your email. But that’s only one part of the job. The second part is to catch their attention with whatever you write and get them to publish your PR. The PR should be maximum 1 page long and it definitely should not be a bullet point list. If you want to get your stuff published, make the life of journalists as easy as possible. You don’t want them to write back to you or call you. You want them to read your PR, tweak a thing or two and hit publish.

My Results

🎉 I almost forgot! I reached out to 52 journalists on a Wednesday morning. Results:

  • Not read: 25
  • Read: 27

That's huge! I honestly thought that most of my emails would end up in the spam folder, but they didn't! Half of the journalists read my email, but I'm not stopping here.

In the next post I will write about how I created a list of journalists, how I reached out to them and of course more numbers are coming!

Let me know in the comments if you’re interested.

  1. 1

    Awesome work @BalintFarago! Do you think the same approach could work in other countries?

  2. 1

    Please share the list of journalists and their email id as well

    1. 4

      Why would he? You are from India and he reached Hungary journalist.

    2. 1

      You know I can't do that. Btw, names and emails are just one thing. You also need to know which article you are referring to, which means you need to do some reading.

  3. 1

    Thanks for sharing the nuggets of your research, and the real life results. Look forward to hearing more.

  4. 1

    I liked how you illustrated the title of your email and shared your hit rate. Thanks for sharing!

    1. 1

      Thanks, titles are very important to make people click on them. Whether it's a Reddit, an IH post or an email to a journalist.

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