Cheap distribution service for press releases?
August 30, 2016 3:29 PM   Subscribe

Our office sends a small but notable amount of press releases to hometown media outlets. We *cannot* keep looking up individual email addresses every time we have to send something... but we also have next to no money. Please hope us.

I have moved from a state-of-the-art press office with international reach (using Cision and Meltwater) to a delightful public nonprofit. We are modern and forward-thinking, but we are cheap. When I brought this subject up before, my boss said, "That's a great idea, but we are so cheap that we were once forced to buy physical answering machines instead of using voicemail."

We have the usual "send the same press release to everyone" releases, but the main issue is the individual ones that go to hometowns.

Example: We are a few weeks out from one of our big events, which I will call the Thing Convention. Our partner wants us to email individualized releases (i.e., "Lois from Loisville has entered her prizewinning Thing in the Things for Kids category of the Thing Convention") to media in the hometowns of each presenter and contest entrant. This is often nationwide, and up to 500 at a time... but only two or three actual releases per month.

Every time I have to do this, my coworker sits down and basically rechecks each address for the East Loisville Courier Tribune et. al., then sends the list of contact emails to me. This list is often full of typos (she is very nice, but she's going through it quickly), so I have to look them up again. And then you also have this thing where there are multiple releases going to the same hometown, so i have to compile them so the people who get them won't just treat them like spam.

Ideally, it would be great to have a list where I could plug in someone's ZIP and have it spit out my desired media outlet.

Does anyone have a small-scale service they use for this sort of thing?

posted by St. Hubbins to Media & Arts (3 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Many, this sounds like a classic use case for A) a central file and B) mail merge.

What we do at one of my nonprofit gigs:

--There's a shared Google sheet of all addresses. It has about 400 addresses in it. Everyone who uses it makes changes to it as bounces or new information come in. We even share it with some other orgs. Ongoing maintenance means we only have to do a "check them all!" session once or twice a year; there are always bounces, anyway.

--Every time we need to do a mailing, we export that Google sheet to Excel. That Excel file is never reused again; it's only for this one mail merge. The master is always the one Google sheet.

--We then use the mail merge function in Microsoft Word to create a letter to send using Outlook with the addresses in the Excel file. That's right: it takes all three programs. It's surprisingly easy once you get the hang of it; there are oodles of tutorials out there.

In your case, you could also have a "location" column in the Google sheet so that when you're in Excel, you can delete the locations you don't need.

One tip for mail merge in Office: turn off syncing in Outlook before doing the merge. That will pile all the emails in your outbox until you turn syncing back on. About half the time I see an error in the outbox messages that needs fixing. It's a nice safety net.

There are ways to do mail merges with Google Docs, too, but they're less streamlined. I would, however, vastly prefer a Google Docs merge to the way you're doing it now.
posted by Mo Nickels at 4:59 PM on August 30, 2016 [4 favorites]

Yeah, central file. Send the releases, and then someone must be tasked with maintaining/correcting it with bouncebacks.

Researching/updating contacts is a good intern/downtime task.

Our partner wants us to email individualized releases (i.e., "Lois from Loisville has entered her prizewinning Thing in the Things for Kids category of the Thing Convention") to media in the hometowns of each presenter and contest entrant.

That's a wee bit nuts, because you are not set up for this high a degree of customization and it would require that you add contestant fields to the database, but one way I have seen this handled is that the organization creates a press release template that is then shared with participants, perhaps with a kit including some generic-enough photos, and asking them to reach out to their local media outlets.

Last idea, there may be local
posted by Miko at 6:21 PM on August 30, 2016

You can use MailChimp free up to a certain (large) number of emails. You can create different lists for different regions or whatever. Contact details can be imported/exported as .csv files. You can also put merge tags in your email campaigns allowing for some customisation. Campaign reports will tell you if any bounced back and also who opened your emails, clicked links etc.
posted by KateViolet at 2:29 PM on August 31, 2016

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