I'm often asked about press releases. They haven't changed a lot over time, but there are definitely new factors, tools and strategies that can influence how -- or whether -- they're picked up by journalists. I've seen businesses struggle with the pain of sending press releases to hundreds of media outlets without getting a single response.

It shouldn't be that hard to get a press mention. You may think a press release is merely a one-sheeter sent to journalists or editors when a company wants to share some news or information about its products or services. But there's more to it than meets the eye.

A press release is a medium to tell your story. Press releases help you widen your reach, improve SEO, build relationships with customers, gain social traction and promote your idea. In reality, they're capable of expanding your business.

Having said that, you need to remember that journalists are pitched hundreds of stories each day. If you want them to write about you and your company, you need to be able to grab their attention through your press release -- quickly and successfully.

So how can you get it right? Here are five elements that will make even the busiest reporters take a second, longer look at your press release:

1. Your Story, Made Relevant to Journalists

Before you write a press release, make sure the story you plan to share with a journalist is relevant to his or her readers. It should concern a topic the journalist writes about frequently; it's the most important aspect when crafting your press release. For example, pitching a story about investor funding for an app is relevant to a tech writer; a story about investor funding for a pet supply vendor wouldn't be a fit.

Once that's out of the way, there are three types of content journalists would love to see more of in 2019 press releases:

  1. Exclusive Research: Facts and figures make for excellent news articles. Give a journalist access to exclusive surveys, polls or original research, and you can feel more assured of a press mention.

  2. Breaking News: Every journalist is looking for the next big scoop. If you can provide one with information on a new development, the chances of getting a mention strongly increase. You can also use newsjacking to connect your company to the latest trending stories; PR tools are helpful for tracking industry trends and making connections.

  3. Emotional Connection: Journalists love an emotional story. Why? They resonate with audiences, leading to better social traction. If your press release evokes an emotional response, it's more likely to get press.

2. An Eye-Catching Headline

Headlines help make your press release's first impression. To garner interest, it's worth the effort to make it as close to perfect as you're able. An eye-catching headline will help you stand out from the crowd, increasing your chances of a press mention. A great headline will succinctly capture the story and make it sound compelling.

Keep your headline simple, short and sweet. It should be able to convey the essence of your press release in fewer than 10 words. Remember the three core tenets of writing a good headline:

  1. Use action verbs.
  2. Be direct.
  3. Be comprehensive.

3. Your Newsworthy Lede​

Journalists are usually pressed for time, so include the 5 Ws (who, what, when, where, why) and the "how" in the first paragraph or lede of the press release. It'll help a journalist gauge the relevance of your story for his or her audience. Stating all your facts upfront in a concise manner saves a reporter time. This brevity pays off in the form of the release getting picked up by multiple publications that can spot the hook.

Next comes your body paragraph, where you get into the details of your story. Use the inverted pyramid technique here: State the most important facts at the top, and then move down in decreasing order of importance.

4. Quotable Quotes

Adding quotes to your press release gives it personality. Quotes are an excellent way to get closer to your readers and get them invested in the story. Quotes also offer a good way to highlight the humanity of the topic you're discussing: Here's why real people have a stake in this issue.

Quotes from higher-ranking officials, especially CEOs or co-founders, are more credible and trusted by readers. Again, it's important to make sure your quotes are relevant to your story. Don't cram your press release full of others' words -- cherry-pick the phrases that add the most value and impact.

5. Boilerplate and Contact Info

End your press release with a company boilerplate and your contact details. Your boilerplate tells the journalist about your company's products, services, clients, awards, purpose and positioning. An ideal boilerplate is anything between 120 and 150 words, and it includes information on when the company was formed, where it's headquartered, its size, etc. If there's something that sets your company apart from its competitors -- your customer base, the industries your team is pulled from, your product features -- make sure to include it here.

At the end of your press release, include your contact details. This will enable journalists to get in touch with you if they need more information regarding your press release. Include your name, title, email address and phone number in your contact details. That gives journalists insight into your credibility, too.

There you have it: Incorporate these five elements in your press release, and you'll boost your likelihood of being covered by top media outlets in 2019. Press releases shouldn't be the only way you attract media attention -- but done well, they can be one of your strongest assets.

Published on: Mar 29, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.