As Ben Pindar correctly remarked in his recent blog (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/press-release-dead-ben-pindar?trkInfo=VSRPsearchId%3A2766635714532224707), the press release is not dead. A well-crafted press release, a form of ‘content’, can have immense value in promoting your business or getting key messages out there to respected third party advocates – journalists – which can be priceless.
We should also remember how important it is to handle journalists intelligently. What we used to call media or press relations. As both a former journalist and a senior press officer with extensive experience in controversial sectors including nuclear power, I have some hopefully useful perspectives to offer.
1. Ask yourself is a press release really required? The ‘so what?’ question. Because that’s the question any self-respecting journalist will ask. They are busier than ever following cuts in editorial resources and are simultaneously experiencing a massive overdose of information overload. They can receive hundreds of press releases a day. Would it be better to wait for something with a real wow factor because it really needs to stand out news-wise? Perhaps you can tweet about it instead and save an exclusive for the next time you have a real headline-grabbing story?
2. Assuming that the press release has a real wow value, ensure that you make the job as easy as possible for the receiving journalist. The language needs to be short, clear and to the point – covering off the usual who, what , where and when. A reporter needs to ‘get’ the gist of the story straight away. And don’t get too clever about the headline as the sub-editor will probably prefer his or her alternative anyway. The headline should capture the story. Do ensure that that you include contact details so you are available for follow up questions.
3. Think about timing. It might seem obvious but some PR practitioners can waste hours of work by failing to check the deadline for their intended publication. As a result, they miss it. By the next edition, the story is old news and it disappointingly fails to appear.
4. A little controversially, I WOULD recommend contacting the journalist if you don’t hear anything back. I found this worked successfully for me on many occasions. The key is to do this intelligently and sensitively. I would email with a polite question such as ‘has the press release arrived safely?’, offering to provide any further help or photos.
5. Which brings me to my final point: photo stories or captions can work really well. If you can supply an eye-catching photo that sums up the story in question, go for it. But forget men in grey suits! This might depend on the publication, of course. The FT might not be the most appropriate target but it could work very well in in your local paper or in a trade publication.
Ultimately, these approaches largely depend on how well you know the journalist. So it’s crucial to get to know them in advance and help them as much as you can to make their jobs easier . No journalist wants to be ‘used’ and only contacted when you have a positive news story or, even worse, defending a negative one on behalf of your organisation. And I should know, I used to be one.
Interested in reading more perspectives on credible communications? Go to www.crediblecomms.com