What’s one of the most common communications mistakes social change leaders make?

Too many otherwise savvy executives believe that effective media relations means sending out a news release alone. That’s all it takes, according to this line of thinking, to produce both calls from reporters and plenty of news stories.

What happens next? Sometimes people get lucky and media coverage follows.

In most cases, however, the phone never rings and the news release appears only on the blog of the company that announced it.

Getting the media’s attention has never been easy. Now that the Internet has revolutionized the news business, it’s tougher than ever.

In the last decade, about 20,000 reporters have lost jobs. Those who remain in newsrooms have less time to sort through the almost 2,000 news releases published every day in the United States.

Here are three reasons why your last news release likely remains buried on your website and what you need to do to get the media coverage you want.

You’re Talking to a Reporter for the First Time

Effective media relations depends on relationships. Identify and get to know the reporters you want to reach long before you send them a news release.

Look for ways to be a resource to the media. You or your colleagues are experts in your organization’s field and your knowledge can be invaluable to the right writer. Take a reporter you want to know out to coffee. Offer to share your knowledge and contacts.

You want the media to see you as a reliable source about your area of expertise. When you do, reporters will pay attention to your story pitches and your news releases because they know, like and trust you.

Your Story Isn’t News

To get media attention, your announcement has to affect a significant number of people. It also has to be timely and relevant to the geographic area or the audience served by the publication you’re pitching. Novelty, human interest, and conflict are other factors that can make your story newsworthy. Too many news releases don’t meet these tests.

For example, a news release sent to reporters across a state about a local nonprofit opening its seventh office would likely go straight to the trash folder.

The same release announcing the opening of the nonprofit’s first office ever in a town sent just to local media would attract more attention. Adding facts about the number of people served and a personal quote from an area resident who will benefit would also increase the odds of coverage.

You Talk Only about Yourself

Sorry, it’s really is not all about you. You make a reporter’s job easier—and your press release more newsworthy—when you cite other organizations and sources. The media will want to hear from a several sources, so provide them up front.

Include one or two quotes from respected leaders about the importance of the news you’re announcing. Mention other organizations that have supported the work you’re describing. Include other sources in your content. It adds credibility and authority to your news release. It will please your partners, too.

Looking for other ways to improve your media relations? See these ideas from my colleague Jenna Cerruti for making a great media pitch.

How have you had a success with news releases? Share your best tips in the comments below.