Press release distribution: The what, where & who of press releases

Press release distribution: The what, where & who of press releases

Hey, we're not here for grammar.

You have an exciting announcement to tell the world, but you want to make sure your PR lands in the best way possible. We get it. So, how do you distribute a press release? Well, don't you worry – we're going to discuss what to send, where to send it, and who to send it to in order to get the best chance of securing some tasty coverage. We'll break down how to email a press release to a journalist, the do's and don'ts of submitting a press release to the media, and much more.

Here's how to distribute a press release really, really well.

Table of contents

Who can I send my press release to?

Your friends. Your enemies. Everyone at the local pub. Your mom. My mom.

Technically, you can send it to anyone, but should you?

No. You shouldn't.

Ideally, you should send your press release to the people you know will be interested because of who their audience is. How do you tell who those people are? Hours upon hours of grueling research. (Really.)

We at Prezly love a good tool to make the job easier, but unfortunately, there is no shortcut to investing in some old-fashioned audience research and relationship-building. There are some fantastic ways to streamline parts of the process, but ultimately you're a human (I hope 🤖) attempting to communicate with other humans (maybe 🤖), so building those connections will likely take more time than you may like.

Sure, there are plenty of services that promise to sell you media lists or pull emails of contacts based on some SEO algorithm or another. ​ Then you can take that list and mass-blast a generic pitch to hundreds of potentially-relevant sources at once. But you know what that ends up being the majority of the time?

Delicious, but not a good distribution strategy.

Build relationships before spamming press releases

This is hands-down the most effective way of pitching a press release.

Building relationships, having connections in the media, knowing your niche journalist contacts or local newspapers, and providing value to them consistently is the best way to curate your own distribution list without having your PR dumped in the spam folder.

Even if you're an introvert and hate building connections, at least going through the effort of researching your media contacts before sending them potentially unrelated press materials is crucial to not getting on the bad side of the people whose audience you're trying to reach.

I know what you're going to ask me next: what about sticking my press release on a newswire? Wouldn't that be, like, a lot less work?

It's a good question, given how many newswires there are in existence, and allow me to give it some unbiased, nuanced, and impartial thought in this sub-chapter.

Why newswire services are horrible at getting you coverage

If carefully targeted pitches are a well-seasoned, gourmet dinner, a newswire is the equivalent of a high-school cafeteria serving up mystery brown™️ goop to a line-up of tweens who have already seen too much in life.

Also, a lot of PRs agree that, technically? Anything you get thanks to a wire service isn't really earned media; it's paid.

Newswire services can also heavily restrict the kinds of PR you can put out, and can often be sort of like shouting into the void in terms of who happens to see your PR at any given time. So are newswire services still useful? Sure, maybe, kinda. They certainly aren't going anywhere. But should they be the cornerstone of your distribution strategy?

Another Kate puts it pretty well on the Spin Sucks blog – don't skip the convo in the comments!

PR Newswire pricing 2024: How much does it cost to send a press release?
PR Newswire pricing 2024: How much does it cost to send a press release?

An in-depth guide to PR Newswire's pricing and the alternatives you can use to get better coverage.

How many people should I send my press release to?

I very clearly am focused in marketing. I can't tell you how many pitches I've gotten about supply chains in countries I've never been to, or drone technology. People don't do their research.

Now, you may do your research, but you have to understand that your audience that's getting your press releases is very skeptical and very quick to delete. Not because of you, but because of the absolute deluge of irrelevant stuff we're getting pitched all the time. So "the bar is high" is essential to keep in mind.

I would much prefer that you reach out personally to 15 or 20 journalists, then reach out to 200 with any general, neutral, mass thing. It's just not going to work. There's too much out there. So that's step one. I know it's basic, but just understanding that you have a skeptical audience that you're reaching and so the bar is high.

Don't send your pitch to everybody. The more people you send a pitch to, the more generic it gets and the less meaningful it will be. As Melanie said, your audience is skeptical and also very busy. Even if your pitch is great, if it isn't relevant to the people you're sending it to, you're just going to waste everyone's time.

If you are looking through your email distribution and can't identify who the people are, what their niche is, what kind of writer they are, or how your press release will reach their audience, you might need to evaluate your tactics.

When is the best time to send my press release?

The short answer: Thursday.

But also, pretty much 9–5 Monday to Friday, according to extensive research that some poor soul spent far too much of their life working on, considering the outcome.

The long answer: my long-suffering colleague Katelynn wrote 3,000 words on the best time and day to send your press release. Go nuts.

More words = a better article. FACT.

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  • Manage all your contact lists in a single CRM, with easy import & export

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What do I include in my press release or email pitch to make it more attractive?

Once you have the right people to send your press to, now the fun begins. You can't guarantee that your press releases will get seen or picked up on because journalism can be a finicky thing--one day, your story might be perfect, and the next day it's too late and the news cycle has moved on.

You can certainly spruce up your email pitch to make it more appealing by including the things that reduce friction between a journalist seeing your pitch and turning it into a story.

Three things to include when sending your pitch:

1. A personalized message about how your PR relates to them/their audience

Even if you use a cold approach, which we don't necessarily recommend, including a short message about how your PR is relevant to their body of work will go a long way. A genuine, friendly, and meaningful approach to communication will likely be more successful than a generic, spammy approach.

Always draft your emails and pitches while keeping in mind that your relationship with the media should be one of reciprocity. You need to provide as much value or more than you are requesting. At any given moment, you are probably one of a thousand people in their inbox who want their story covered, so you need to focus on how you can differentiate yourself by explaining how your story will be easy to pitch to their editors, how it will relate to their audience, and how it fits their particular niche or specialty.

2. Keywords

This is one of those things that's only obvious if you've worked in content creation, but keywords matter. Not just to Google – to us mere mortals as well.

Keywords and phrases let you get the gist of what an email (or article) is about at a glance.

There's a place for puns and wordplay – just not at the cost of clarity.

Free tip: Follow Kelsey's newsletter! That thing is a treasure trove of useful advice on how PRs and journalists can get along better and help one another do their jobs.

3. Media assets

Say I have three pitches in my inbox that are all relevant and that I might write about. And one includes an infographic and some imagery that I have the rights to use, and contact information for three sources that are willing to talk to me.

That is a much easier yes than the other one, where I would have to start from scratch, I've got to find my own images, I've got to track down sources myself and get their emails. So the easier you can make it, the better.

And you don't have to send all this stuff at once, that might be a lot. But letting them know, hey, we've got a folder-worth of images that are rights managed, so you can take them and use them. We've got six sources that are willing to chat with you.

Just make it easy for them to say yes.

Simply put, nobody wants to do more work than they have to. If you don't want your contacts to grow quietly resentful of your emails, be thoughtful about what you send them and when.

Simple workarounds:

  • Include a link to your press kit in every press release or pitch. It won't add any burden to your email and gives your contact the option to pick up assets if they want to. (Not sure what I'm talking about? You might like our guide to setting up your online press kit.)
  • Host your assets in your online newsroom. We might be biased, but an online newsroom is the best way to get up-to-date content to your audience. Gone are the days when journalists have to deal with dozens of large, clunky files in their inboxes. That is, when the massive emails aren't just sent straight to the spam folder. Sending a well-crafted email with a link so journalists can browse and download beautifully curated assets at their leisure? That's just good sense.
"PNGs? .DOCX? Is that… a PDF? No."

4. Personality and kindness

It seems like an obvious thing to include, but you might be surprised at how often people bypass simple courtesy and kindness when interacting with journalists and the media. We all want exposure for our brands, but sometimes it seems that people forget that they're actually interacting with humans, particularly when playing a "numbers game" as far as coverage goes.

This is one of the reasons why we at Prezly harp on the concept of relationships in PR. You're much more likely to have long-term success with the media if you can't talk to them like they are real-life human beings and plan your communications accordingly. ​

How should my pitch email look?


I'm serious! You want to get the main points of your story across as succinctly as possible. If journalists are anything, it is notoriously overworked and likely short-tempered from lack of sleep and abundance of caffeine. They have neither the time nor compulsion to read through several paragraphs of torrid prose, particularly if your pitch is coming out of the blue.

If you already have a relationship with someone, they're likely to be a bit more forgiving – but all the same, you'll be helping nobody by stringing things out any longer than is necessary. (Unless you are, say, writing an article that needs to hit a certain word count to help it hit a respectable rank on Google, but that's neither here nor there.)

Here's a fun article on how to craft good emails for the media.

How should I follow up on my press release email?

In a word? Thoughtfully.

Following up is a solid idea, and you should 100% do it.

Just… also know when to stop. (If you're not sure, the line is somewhere between a polite LinkedIn DM and showing up on their lawn at 3 am, wearing a conspicuous mustache in an attempt to hoodwink your way past the restraining order.)

The line between "gently following up" and being a pest" is quite thin, unfortunately. Ask yourself when following up, "how would I receive this email? Does it seem polite, genuine, and helpful or pushy, demanding, and annoying?" It's always good to keep in mind that people tend to respond to your pitches when they want to. Sometimes a helpful nudge is great, but if you're simply asking for favors and not taking silence as a no, that's not good.

Never gonna give you up! Never gonna let you down!

Consider going through social

Warren Buffet is on social.

My cat is on social.

Everyone is on social. See if you can use that to your advantage.

At the very least, visiting a person's Twitter account before you begin the chase can give you an idea of whether or not they're about. Do they normally post daily but seem to have gone totally silent in the past few days? Maybe they've got bigger things going on in their lives than replying to your pitch.

Caveat: not every writer will love this approach, as you'll see from the video below. Best to check out their socials and gauge for yourself whether or not it feels like a good idea for that person.

Examples of the best real-life press releases

Now that we've discussed the what, where, and who of press releases, let's take a look at some fantastic examples of press releases just to get your creative juices flowing.

Why do these press releases stand out? Because they're stylish, engaging, well-curated, and hosted online in such a way that journalists can easily grab media assets and write a story without a bunch of emailing back-and-forth.

Again, to reiterate: if you want people to cover your story, make it as easy as possible. And these examples did just that.


Example: How to launch a surprise collaboration

How to launch a surprise collaboration

Example: flydubai places USD 11 billion order for 30 Boeing 787 Dreamliners

flydubai places USD 11 billion order for 30 Boeing 787 Dreamliners

Example: MoMu, Fashion Museum Antwerp, Spotlights the Fashion Photography of Man Ray

MoMu, Fashion Museum Antwerp, Spotlights the Fashion Photography of Man Ray

Example: Show, don't tell: Porsche uses photographs to capture your imagination

Show, don't tell: Porsche uses photographs to capture your imagination

Example: Snøhetta reveals design for new innovation hub and Bangkok's largest elevated garden

Snøhetta reveals design for new innovation hub and Bangkok's largest elevated garden

If you've enjoyed these examples, why not have a look at a hundred more!

Next steps

Now that you know the ins and outs of press release distribution, you're ready to go forth and create an amazing press release distribution plan. Or maybe you want to procrastinate a little longer? We won't tell. Why not make yourself another cuppa and read up on the most effective strategies for writing and releasing your press releases.

Or, need to send press releases out now? See how Prezly can help you send out quick, professional, and beautiful PR. Try it now for free:

Prezly – software for modern PR teams

  • Write & publish brand stories in an online newsroom

  • Send email campaigns, pitches & newsletters

  • Manage all your contact lists in a single CRM, with easy import & export

  • Measure performance to see who's engaging with your stories

Published March 24, 2022

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