For many small to medium enterprises, it’s the lifeline connecting business owners to the local media; the most time-tested and effective conduit linking businesses’ news to the interests of the local community, and most importantly, a vital but often overlooked source of free advertising.
Despite all the obvious advantages of press releases, however, many – indeed possibly most – press releases end up in journalists’ and editors’ deleted items folder.
And while the reasons for this are many, a few common and recurring cross-indutsry trends can be observed.
Not important enough
Perhaps the most obvious and frustrating reason for those reporting the news is that the press release being received is simply not important enough to be considered news for the recipient publication, whether in print or online format.
Sending press releases first and foremost requires the PR officer to put himself in the shoes of the journalist or news professional receiving the release or news bulletin and to ask himself whether if roles were reversed, and he were the one receiving the release, it would be considered worthy of online or print publication.
Some very simple questions that can often diagnose an under-important release before it goes out (possibly reducing your credibility for those future occasions when your organization does actually have news worth writing about): will the average reader/layperson in your locality care about this? Have articles similar to this been published before? Is this the right geographical catchment for this piece?
The next thing to consider at length is the format the press release is going to take.
Practically all press releases nowadays are sent by email, and given email’s obvious advantages over snail-mail (most obviously, cost), the medium has been somewhat cheapened and overused when it comes to shooting out news.
This has created a ongoing and overwhelming deluge of news releases for all but the most minor of journalists.
Even journalists writing for local circulation freesheets can often be inundated with up to several hundred emails in a single day.
They cost nothing to send and can be effortlessly deleted at the touch of a button. The incentive not to overuse this facility, once a reliable and thorough list of journalistic contats has been compiled, is very marginal, whlie the possible upsides (namely widespread and extensive media coverage) are very appealing.
If you are going to be sending out a continuous bout of news releases, therefore, you would be well advised to ensure that at least the format the message is presented in is as user friendly as possible.
Some quick-fire pointers
- Highlight quotation from key figures in a different colour, making it easier for overworked journalists to skim to the part of the email that could contain the all-important soundibte
- Avoid repetitive and multi-paragraph statements from the same CEO or media contact — bear in mind who has given public comment on behalf of the organization in previous communication
- Keep tabs on the length of the press release as a whole.
Tedious introductions are, well, tedious, and a simplified explanation of the facts and know-how in specialized industries, such as science, is greatly appreciated by journalists who often lack the formal training to have a sufficient grasp of the complications and details of complex projects and experiments.
Above all, like all communications, keep it simple, crystal clear and concise.
Results will eventually follow.
Post by Daniel O’Carroll – Founder of StudentNews.ie