April 17, 2009

Following too closely

Following up on a press release is not an unforgivable sin, just a minor annoyance.

Understand that the press release file is to a newspaper what the slush pile is to a book publisher: a big mass of unsolicited submissions that may or may not see the light of day.*

A follow-up phone call or message asking about the status of a press release usually requires the editor to dig through that big pile -- if she is so inclined -- to find it. Mind you, now that most releases are sent by e-mail, this is a lot easier than it was back in the day when we actually had to dig through real piles of dead tree matter.

If you believe your story is truly a perfect fit for the outlet, then yes, a follow-up call or message to point out that perfectness is allowable.

But following up Friday on a press release sent Thursday is following a little too closely. Give it 3 business days, at least. By then, it might actually have been read and slotted.

Helpful Hint: Your press release will stand out in the e-slush pile if you make the subject line as specific as possible. "Our Co. signs $3 million government contract" will get more attention than "Press release," even if the latter is about a $30 million deal.

* Sturgeon's Law applies in this matter, as in everything else: 90 percent of everything is crap. Including, I don't doubt, 90 percent of all blog posts.

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