The humble press release has been an important tool for sharing information with the media – and the public at large – for more than a century. Throughout that time, its structure, format, and intended use have remained remarkably intact. Even so, is the tool still fit for the job?
Still the right tool for the job
Every day, literally thousands of press releases are issued across the globe – the vast majority of which do not receive a single piece of media coverage. This seems to indicate there’s a problem with the press release itself. Wrong.
As with most tools, the problem isn’t with the tool itself – rather with how it’s being used. The press release is still the most efficient way of imparting stories to others in a format that’s easy to digest and repurpose. A great press release will get people talking, boost your SEO, and build relationships between your organization and the public. To make that happen, you need to take the following into account:
Is your press release really newsworthy?
I’ve heard stories of organizations issuing thousands of press releases over a 3-4 year period, with next to no coverage as a result. Dig a little deeper, and you’ll see that the majority of these kinds of press releases are built around events that have no value for the media publications they aim to appear in.
So you had a nice function at your offices, and a councillor popped in for a glass of champagne and a two-minute speech. Aside from the fact that there are hundreds of councillors attending functions every day, ask yourself – would you read that story, or would you skip it for something you really care about? If your organization has achieved an important milestone, secured a major new partner/investor/board member/funding round, or broken new ground in a trending topic, then you have something worth sharing.
Just make sure to share that news with the right people. Take the time to build a quality list of contacts that would be interested in your story – anything else is spamming.
Where are the details?
Avoid anything that approaches a sales pitch when creating a press release – let the facts speak for themselves, and remember to rein in your boss when he supplies a quote. Talk about the topic on hand, and be sincere – keep away from buzzwords!
Another important factor is to open the doors to your organization. The more transparent you are with financials, board members, what it is you do, the more trustworthy and credible you become.
Newswires don’t work
Yup. That’s how it is. Best case scenario, you pay a chunk of change and your press release starts popping up in weird online publications that have nothing in common with your target audience.
Most of the time, you don’t even get that. The usual story is your press release might receive a backlink on a rarely-visited corner of a media website, alongside hundreds more backlinks to other press releases destined not to be read by anyone. Google doesn’t even index these press releases most of the time.
We may live in a digital world, but building a relationship with journalists, media and influencers before your press release goes out remains the most important – and effective – way to get their attention.
Timing – and taking time
Relationships are built on trust – and trust takes time to build. If you reach out to a media figure for the first time with a press release about an organization they don’t know and expect them to publish a story that day, then expect to fail.
Assuming the story has potential, a good journalist will want to conduct their own research, which takes time. Newsrooms are busy places, and editorial demands may mean you don’t figure highly on their priority list right now – that doesn’t mean you won’t get coverage at a later date. Help them do their jobs by being helpful, providing extra information when needed, and answering emails quickly – don’t miss your window.
Equally importantly, don’t spend a month micro-managing the production of your press release by involving 20 department heads and 30 junior managers in its creation – not only will the finished product be confused and bland, but your story may not be newsworthy anymore. Keep an eye on the clock and strike while the iron’s hot.
How do your press releases shape up?
Storytelling is an art, press release creation is a craft, distribution is a process. All three require different skills, yet all are essential for successful coverage. Next time you have something you’d like to share with the world, make sure you share it the right way.
Want more tips?
If you want a more comprehensive guide on how to make your press releases a hit, try our Smart PR for Finnish Organizations online course. In 7 weeks, we will show you how to build a long-term PR strategy that covers everything from planning a PR campaign, crafting and executing it, and finally measuring the results against your business goals.
View our pricing – or get in touch!