Posted on: 21.02.2024

PR Bible: All you need to know when you’re new to the industry.

Over my many years of working in PR, I have certainly learned some things about the industry along the way.

For any new starter or newbie to PR, there are some fundamental things you need to know. From media lists to outreach emails, reactive work to writing a release, I have shared what I know to help any new PR understand the basics.

Think of it as your new-to-PR-bible.

Perfect your media lists

Media lists are one of the most important parts of a job in PR. A list of journalists you intend to pitch a story, a media list can make or break the success of a story. Journalists on a media list must be relevant to the story you’re planning to pitch.

The first thing to do is understand the tool you have access to fully. PRs use different tools, whether that be Kantar, PA Mediapoint, Gorkana, or something different entirely. They will mostly work the same in that they have a database of journalists you can scroll through, but bear in mind that they’re not always 100% up to date. If you’ve seen a journalist you think would be great to contact, it’s always worth checking X or doing a quick Google search to ensure a journalist is still working at that publication.

When starting a media list from scratch, one thing I always recommend to my team is collating a list of titles to contact (usually a mix of nationals and lifestyles, then regional, trade or industry-specific titles if relevant), then googling the title and type of story to find suitable journalists. For example, if you’re outreaching a story on interior trends and want to pitch to Metro, search ‘Metro, interior trends’ or ‘metro, interior design tips’ and look for similar stories and the journalist who covered the piece. If the piece was published 6 months ago or less, then that’s a good indicator of a journalist you should include on your media list. It takes a little more time than if you were using a PR tool, but we’ve always had great success this way.

Looking at Response Sources of Journalist requests is also a great way of sourcing journalists and seeing what stories they cover. Or, look at previous coverage for your client and pitch those journalists who covered them before.

Writing a newsworthy press releases

Similar to a media list, ensuring press releases is one of the biggest parts of the job and something a lot of new PRs struggle with when starting out. Writing a press release is not as straightforward as a lot of people may think, and there is an art to it. Just because you’re a great writer, doesn’t mean you know how to write an effective press release.

One of the biggest traps new PRs fall into (myself included here!) is writing press releases like a blog; making them wordy, over-descriptive, and long. Although a press release needs a clear angle and hook, its main purpose is to state facts, data, and information. It is then up to a journalist to craft their story around the information you provide them.

The structure of a press release is also something that needs to be mastered. While each agency and client is different, the general rule of thumb is that a press release begins with an intro, gets into the main story with all the data, research and tips, and finishes with a quote and a call-to-action.

Other things to remember when writing a release are:

  • – Don’t mention your client in the headline or even the first paragraph of your release
  • – Always lead with your key stats / news hook
    – Include bullet points underneath the headline to summarise the release
    – Write in the third person
    – Keep an eye on sentence structure and length
    – Use graphs, numbers, and bullet points to break up the text and showcase key stats
    – Keep the release to 2-pages maximum
    – Make sure there’s always a boilerplate and notes to editors at the bottom
    – Ensure your release is properly referenced throughout
    – Follow previous structure from an approved press release.

Outreach to success

The aim of the game in PR is to deliver results for your clients and the way we do that is through outreaching (also known as pitching). Whether it be via outreach or your media too, getting your outreach email right is fundamental to a campaign’s success.

I have refined my outreach strategy over the year, and my top tips to anyone crafting an outreach email are:

  • – Always address the journalist by name. Don’t ever send a generic email addressed to nobody
  • – Ask a journalist how they are – it pays to be polite
  • – Tell the journalist why they should cover your story.
  • – Is it freezing outside and that’s why you’re sending ways to keep warm on a budget? 
  • – Is it National Sleep Day and that’s why you’re sending a roundup of top sleep tips? Tell them!
  • – Include everything they need to publish the piece straight away.
  • – A PR’s job is to provide journalists with a story that’s ready to go.
  • – Always include images within and ensure everything is up-to-date and properly referenced
  • – Ask for feedback on your story
  • – Leave your full name, email, and number so they can come to you with any further questions.


When it comes to timings for outreach, this is a subject many PRs feel passionately about. In my experience, a story shouldn’t be outreached any later than 10am. I do believe if a story is good it does not necessarily matter what day a story is pitched, but we do tend to avoid Fridays to pitch a new campaign.

Again, it will vary depending on where you work but in general, follow-ups should be done two or three days after an initial email, and always reply to the initial email chain rather than start a new thread.

Only contact one journalist per publication, and if you haven’t got any coverage or a response after follow-up, then you can try another journalist at that publication. Mistakes do happen, but try to not send a story to more than one journalist at the same publication.

Re-angle your stories
Is your outreach not working? Sometimes a story doesn’t work – and that’s okay! Not every story you pitch is going to get covered, even if you think it will. Don’t be afraid to speak up and make suggestions to switch up your outreach, whether it be focussing on new data, or reangling the piece completely. The best thing you can do when a story isn’t working is to recommend change, not to give up on the story.

Building journalist relationships
As a new PR, you won’t have knowledge or a relationship with journalists as most PRs will after years of working in the industry. Building relationships with journalists is a great thing to do when you start working in PR.

Ask your team or do some research to see relevant journalists to your client, and follow and engage with them on X. Feel free also to reach out to them and see what stories they’re covering or working on in the future that you can help with. That way, the journalist will get to know your name and will (hopefully) then reach out directly to you for any expert commentary or help on future pieces they’re writing.

Being proactive and reactive
One thing I always ask of my team is to be as proactive and reactive as possible. It is one of the best ways to succeed as a PR. Keep your eye on the pulse of the news agenda and across social media so you’re always in the know about what’s going on.

Newsjacking (responding to the news agenda with an expert comment or story from your client) is a big part of PR, so always be on the hunt for any opportunities or journalist requests that you can jump on and flag with your account manager.

Client communications and calls
When I first started in PR, the thought of speaking to clients would always make me feel anxious. Now, it’s a part of my everyday job and doesn’t phase me. Confidence in speaking to clients and presenting to them will come with time.

If you are asked to speak to clients, remember to be polite, friendly, and courteous and make sure you’re responding to them promptly too. And if you are feeling anxious, just remember that you’re all on the same team and working towards the same goal. If you are asked to sit in on client calls, make notes and share them with the team – it’s hard for the team who are speaking with clients to do both, so help out with this if you can.

Ensure you’re following internal processes
It may not be the most fun part of the job, but it’s really important to follow internal processes. When you start a new job, there’ll be different ways of working so really try and get stuck into them. Familiarise yourself with any internal trackers, ways of working and internal processes, looking at what other people in the team do so you can follow suit.

Speak up
Last but certainly not least – speak up if you need help. I often see new starters feel they have to suffer in silence if they don’t know something, in fear it may make them look bad. This is understandable (albeit silly!) and there is no shame in asking for help. The more questions you’ll ask, the quicker you’ll understand and learn more. So don’t be afraid to speak up if you are stuck on anything. Your team will always be there to help you!

To find out more about PR at ilk, click here.



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