Learn When A Press Release Is The Right Way To Break Through The Clutter
Post written by Linda Barger
Gone are the days when you need an announcement for every award or promotion. A simple Tweet might suffice. It really depends on who you’re trying to reach and how they get their news. So how do you know when you need a press release and why you should use an alternative? That’s what I’m going to discuss.
But first, it’s important to explain where I’m coming from. I’m part of a team of on-the-go integrated communications and marketing experts who spend the majority of our days not in a traditional office, but outside of four walls. When you’re out doing stuff, you tend to find a muse more easily than just sitting at your desk all day. Or at least, that’s my philosophy. Out with the old and in with the new or something along those lines. However, that doesn’t mean that there are some tried and true tools that will always remain in my idea box. A press release is one of those tools. So why then isn’t it as affective as it used to be?
For starters, press releases are a dime a dozen. There are more than 1,000 press releases issued ever day. If you’re a journalist, that can fill up your inbox faster than you can click the delete button. Well, maybe not, but you get the idea. It’s a lot of clutter to break through. And then there’s the part where journalists are moving away from press releases as news sources.
Despite these stats, I still use press releases and think they’re an effective tool for businesses to use to communicate company growth, moves and events, but not on their own. And while the release is appropriate for some things, it’s a waste of time with others.
"Press Releases are an effective tool for business to communicate company growth, moves and events, but not on their own."
Before I dig into what real news looks like, I first have to mention that the most impactful PR programs today are a combination of paid and earned media opportunities with the right audience. With more than 12,000 press releases issued every year and that they’re being devalued by search engines, SEO isn’t going to help. Sending a press release as a pitch to even the most targeted writer is just a bunch of words in a mail inbox with hundreds, if not thousands, of others.
The best way to get the media’s attention is to engage them BEFORE you have something you want them to write about - and keep it going. Find the right people who are following the topics relevant to your business, follow them on social, share their articles, comment on their content, engage in conversation. And then, come to them with information that isn’t just a promotion for your company, but useful and helpful news from which that writer’s audience can benefit.
Okay, I’m going to repeat myself to emphasize a key point. A press release cannot just promote your company, but it must contain useful and helpful news from which that writer’s audience can benefit. You have to be able to explain why their audience will be interested too, and it’s probably very specific to each outlet and writer. Since everything is data-driven these days, sending fresh (not stale) stats or data might help.
More specifically, not every product announcement needs a press release. If it’s an industry game changer, then it could be newsworthy. How do you know before you announce? The company should be doing its research and have some data to back up the claim. If it’s a world’s first or customers were asking for it, prove it! It’s not uncommon to have a few writers or industry analysts under NDA or embargo that you can run your story by to gauge if your announcement is going to get picked up. But again, you have to already have relationships with these influencers if you’re going to get their feedback ahead of time. Not all journalists will agree to keep news confidential until the embargo lifts, so you have to find out who will.
So, the next time you’re thinking about writing a press release, ask yourself a few basic questions to be sure it’s the right way to go. Questions like…who is our target audience? Will they care about this news and why? How will it benefit them? For example, is this a world’s first or industry first that’s going to dramatically impact your industry and target market? Do you have research to support these claims and can site the source? If you can prove to a writer that their audience cares, then you have a higher chance of landing a story.
If not, don’t waste your time and consider the alternatives. You still have a story to tell and are looking for the right delivery method. Who’s your target audience and how are they getting their news? Are they reading about it online or would they rather see it in a video?
A video, a story, a graphic or still image and caption are just a few ideas of content you can create and share. There are many channels for distributing your content, more than I can list, whether it’s sharing and boosting a video on social or publishing a story on an online publishing platform like Medium. There’s a mat release, which is different than a press release by the way, because it’s typically written for consumers, and you pay for someone to write the story and are guaranteed some media placement. A press release can be for consumers or otherwise, such as an enterprise or B2B audience, and is earned media. With a press release there’s no guarantee you’ll get coverage from media, influencers or on social.
Don’t forget the visual element!
If you’ve read the above and are a go on your press release, then there’s one more element that is crucial to its success--the visuals. Don’t ever issue a release without at very least including an image and caption. Videos are even better.
Speaking of visuals, I hope you have a clearer image in your mind’s eye of why you need a press release and what accounts as real news. At very least, the next time you hear the word “announcement” mentioned in a planning meeting, be sure you take a moment to consider if it’s press-release worthy. If not, you’ll know how to educate people about why it’s not newsworthy enough and offer ideas for what to recommend as the best alternative approach.
Share what you've learned with your social community and hashtag #JRWPR to keep the conversation going.