6 ways journalists can use press releases effectively – Poynter

Press releases are often promotional. It’s up to you to make sure you’re not simply furthering an organization’s or person’s agenda. When reading press releases, look for gaps and try to fill them.

Are the facts in the release correct? Are names spelled correctly? Is there a local angle that would be relevant to your audience? What is missing from the story? Does the information in the release line up with what you know/have heard? Who else should you talk to for more information? Is there any chance this release could be a hoax? Asking smart questions can help inform your reporting.

Make the story your own.

Rather than just quoting or paraphrasing a release in a story, make your story stand out by including your own voice in it. Your voice is likely a lot more conversational and engaging than the language that’s used in releases.

Follow up with the person who sent the release or with the people quoted in it to get quotes that are different from the ones that everyone else will have. When necessary, add analysis and context that will help advance the information in the release. Chances are, if you do these things, you’ll be happier with the end result.

Find ways to get ahead next time.

When I get a press release about something relevant to my beat, I almost always respond and thank the person who sent it. If I want to keep getting releases, I encourage the person to continue sending them to me. And then I take it a step farther by letting the person know that, if possible, it would help to hear about information before it’s released.

This won’t work all the time, but sometimes it will — especially if you agree to hold the story until the release comes out. If a public relations person shares information with you before sending a release, you’ll have more time to do reporting and interview people.

Taking these steps will put you ahead of others who are hearing about the information in the release for the first time.

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