One of the most common misconceptions about PR is that you need to distribute press releases to get media coverage.
Few people know you can get media exposure without writing a press release — many of my students have done it!
But first, what is a press release, how is it different from a media pitch, and when do you use one or the other?
Press Releases, Simplified
A press release can be a full-blown news article. It has a definite format and conventional style. It’s written in a journalistic tone, which is objective and impersonal.
To be successful, a press release must read like news and be worthy of being published as such. In fact, it should be complete enough to be published as is, or quoted in a bigger news item.
A well-written press release can also get you media interviews. That is, even if journalists don’t use the piece itself, the press release can pique their interest enough to contact you.
Media Pitch At a Glance
A media pitch, on the other hand, is a letter to an editor or journalist. Its main objective is to catch his or her interest — enough to want to call you for an interview, product demonstration, or whatever call to action you’ve indicated.
It has all the most important information, but not all the details. It isn’t a complete story. Rather it’s a teaser for a story. You can be more creative and less formal in a media pitch than in a press release. Click here to see a sample media pitch letter.
As such, a media pitch cannot be published as is. It only has the germ for a good story.
When to Use What
Either a media pitch or a press release can get you free media exposure. So when do you use one or the other?
If you don’t know how to write a press release, don’t have staff on hand who can write one, or can’t afford to hire a press release writer, then a media pitch is the easiest way for you to start getting PR.
If you have a newsworthy story about your business, not having a press release shouldn’t get in your way. Write a media pitch instead!
Also, if you don’t necessarily have a newsworthy story about your own business, but want to react or add to a hot news item, use a media pitch to get your name in front of journalists. Indicate why you would make a good follow-up to a story they’re already covering. Perhaps you have additional data they haven’t found yet. Or maybe you’re an expert with an opposing view. Those are good occasions for a media pitch.
On the other hand, if you have something newsworthy, such as an event coming up, a new product about to be launched, or the release of research findings, then a press release is the best way to get the word out. Click here to read more about when it’s appropriate to write a press release.
The Bottom Line
Here’s your take-home idea: Don’t let a press release stop you from getting PR.
If you feel strongly that you have something valuable to share to the public, but you’re not able to get a press release out, then go ahead and write a media pitch instead.
However, do get the capability to write press releases as soon as you can. You can learn how to do it yourself (it’s not as hard as you might think, especially if you use templates). Get your VA or administrative assistant trained in press release writing. Or hire a PR professional to do it for you.