Pitching Products with Press Releases

by Peg Corwin on November 4, 2008

Cake made using ZandaPanda bakeware

“How do I reach lifestyle journalists to pitch my ZandaPanda bakeware line?  Do I use online press releases or track down individual journalists in my niche and pitch them in custom emails?”  That’s the question Sandra raised in a comment on my blog post  Online Press Releases: Intro, Video and Links.

Contact Journalists Both with Email and  Calls

PR experts I know all agree that Sandra should both do a press release AND call journalists.

Michael Keaton, SCORE‘s national Director of PR and Communications, states:  “If you’re offering a new product or service, I suggest you try a news release. It’s a cheap and often effective method of building local awareness and word-of-mouth about your business.”  Then use personal contact, he urges. “Call the journalist directly, ask them for a few minutes of their time, and talk to them about your product. Writers at small and mid-size newspapers would probably be more apt to take time to talk to you about this.”

Gordon Mayer, Vice President of Community Media Workshop, responded to my question with a post entitled On Press Releases and Pitching. He observes that in drafting the press release, “you create a script for your phone call.”  The reverse is also true, he claims.  “If you put together a great release, you should also pick three or four journalists and deliver the message personally.”

What Should be In a Press Release for a Product like ZandaPanda Bakeware?

For a new product, the pros tell me, the release should be short, factual and to the point.

  • Make the release about 100 words for a simple product.
  • Put the most important information in the first and second paragraphs.
  • Identify unique benefits.
  • Describe features factually. Write sentences that state details like size, color, weight, packaging and cost.
  • Avoid fancy claims, praise and platitudes.

Keaton recommends the release have a unique angle.  “Before writing the release, think about what makes the product news, why an editor would want to cover it, what’s different or new about it, and whether there is a local angle. They [journalists] are probably not going to want to give you free advertising for something they don’t really consider newsworthy.”

Emailing one or more product photos with the release can help you get a journalist’s attention and interest.  Taking this one step further, Keaton recommends that Sandra send a press kit by mail that includes a sample of her bakeware, or at least professional photos that showcase her products.

An Exclusive Pitch to a Journalist Using the Bakeware Example

In addition to a product release, both Mayer and Keaton agree that Sandra should target journalists for an individual pitch.  (To find them, check 4 Ways to Get Journalists’ Emails for a Targeted Press Release,) Communications consultant Brenda Lashbrook describes how the bakeware business might position its product.

The “pitch” is the idea you are trying to sell, backed up by facts, plus arguments for relevancy such as current trends, news or usefulness to readers/viewers/listeners.  A pitch to an individual journalist should be tailored for that journalist, their audience and the outlet.  For a bakeware product, the lifestyle editor at a large urban newspaper might appreciate tips on quick meals for busy professionals, while the lifestyle editor at a rural or suburban magazine might like a feature about planning a large family gathering.  The best advice is to familiarize yourself with the target publication before approaching the journalist and be responsive to their needs.”

This call to “pitch” is NOT a sales call.  As I was working on this section with Lashbrook, I kept wanting to write that Sandra should tell the journalists “women will be dying to learn about this bakeware,” or “this is bakeware everybody must have”, or “this bakeware produces the most original-shaped, best-tasting chocolate cake in the world.”  Turns out, this is exactly what Sandra should NOT say.  Journalists will likely hang up on her if she does.  In these calls, Sandra SHOULD be a balance of enthusiastic and factual.  She SHOULD convey her belief that, because of recent trends or local circumstances, the publication’s readers will be pleased to be made aware of, and delighted to read about, ZandaPanda bakeware.

Sandra’s PR Homework

It’s unanimous.  Sandra should introduce her new product by distributing both a short press release and making a couple calls to lifestyle editors at local papers.

What’s your experience with product releases?  Let me know in a comment.

Related links

4 Ways to Get Journalists’ Emails for a Targeted Press Release

Online Press Releases: Intro, Video and Links

PR Tips from Community Media Workshop

Press Releases for Small Business (AllBusiness.com)

Getting Press (A series of articles from Entrepreneur.com)

PS.  For those curious about the chocolate cake picture, Sandra tells me “that’s a chocolate cake made with two boxes of cake mix in the Unicorn Mold.  There isn’t any icing on it, although it can be glazed or dusted with powdered sugar without losing any detail.”