Why indeed a press release? Don't waste your time
Updated: Apr 6
Let's start at the beginning - a purpose of a press release is to announce something newsworthy that will be of interest to the media.
But why do companies get it so wrong?
PR for so long now has become seen as a way to gain free exposure, and sure, for much of the noughties when there were a prolific number of emerging newswires, blogs and media outlets the media were gagging for content.
However, budgets have become tight, editorial resources lean, and an influx in companies sending press releases that it's just become pure noise.
Let's look at the first statement: "announce something newsworthy"
What do we mean by newsworthy? It is something of topical interest that contains some or a few of the following characteristics:
Timing - conversations, discussions and subject matters that are of current interest; this can be driven by politics, economy, innovation, events.
Significance - the impact it has on people, industry, economy or politics
Proximity - how relevant it is to the audience, how close it comes to impacting their lives directly
Prominence - the more renowned, famous or institutional the subject matter is to the audience
Human interest - often are emotive and sensitive
When you look at your recent press releases, do they tick any or a number of these characteristics?
Why a press release?
Before you even consider writing a press release, ask yourself what you intend to gain from it. What will be your KPI to ensure you are making an impact. Do you really need a press release to communicate this information, or is it best as a blog post, a social media post, video or an email campaign?
Announcing a new product or product feature: what's new about this product that isn't on the market? In what ways are you changing people's lives?
Announcing a partnership: what's different about this collaboration? Why is it unique and different?
Winning a new client: why is this so important? What milestone are we recognising?
Hiring a new team member: what does that mean for the company? What's the intention for communicating so publicly?
How to approach a press release:
Audience: who are you targeting
While you may post press releases on paid-for newswires, your ultimate audience is often your buyer but you have to go through a filter - the journalist. Key things to consider:
The journalist is not an expert in your field, they are often generalists and many are straight out of university
The journalist wants stories that will capture the attention of their readers, they love link-bait headlines, but most of all it has to add value to their specific readership
Buzz words, industry jargon and wafty statements will distance the reader, not everyone is as intelligent or an expert like you
Content: what are you saying
You may want to promote your latest product, service or success but this is purely self-promotional. In reality, no-one cares about your achievement, only you have an interest - they want to know what's the benefit for them. Start thinking about how the business developments you make are actually working to improve the lives of others:
How is the content of the release educating your intended audience
In what way is it improving your audience's life, providing benefits for them that they can action
Relevance: the significance
The world is inundated with "cutting-edge, innovative, market leader, disrupting, game-changing, revolutionary" statements - but what is the evidence to back this up. Don't make random statements without evidence, if you want your press release to be picked up and get noticed, you need to consider:
The real world, in what way has it actually changed how people and business behave
How has it influenced or will influence the way a market works
What question is it providing an answer to that hasn't yet been found?
Does it address a topical talking point?
Distribution: target recipients
Don't expect that posting on a paid-for newswire is going to get the international press picking up your story to reach the front page of the Financial Times. You need to do a bit of work to get there -
In the first instance, don't believe what a newswire promises,
Secondly - find a PR agency who will distribute the release - to the relevant publications (you know, those where your audience will be reading) and follow up on the release (this means call and speak to the journalist), make sure they tailor it to each and every journalist and paper, and
Finally - don't think a one-off press release is enough, it isn't, a good press/media campaign requires a minimum of six months investment with ongoing delivery of stories with variety.
Examples of how to make your press releases better:
Partnerships: If two technology companies are working together, how will their solution provide new opportunities for the customer and what are those opportunities.
This is the headline, "School administrators manipulate data for improved budget management"
The headline is not, "Company A and Company B partner to bring new product to market"
New product: Yes you have a fabulous new product, but what is it enabling the industry to achieve?
This is the headline, "Hoteliers gain control of their room rates"
The headline is not, "Channel X launches rate control feature"
New clients: Do your best not to announce new clients unless it really is industry-changing, focus on case studies, but those where you actually have proven recorded results.
This is the headline, "MaCalf chases double figure growth"
The headline is not, "MaCalf Enterprises selects Smazzy Tech for improved service operation"
NEXT STEPS TO NOT WASTE YOUR TIME
You need to build recognition of your business, product and service - the way to do this is to be credible and authentic by adding real value in your PR campaign. Start by educating and informing, giving insight and supporting this with primary data and and real examples.
Build a list of milestones for your business that vary each month which will also be of PR value, and get everyone in your company involved.
When you get a piece of coverage, share it across LinkedIn - this is a great way of showing your recognition from third party sites.
And, it goes without saying - if you need a plan of action to help you achieve this - we can build a PR calendar that your team can work to. Or failing that, we can do the PR for you - get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org