It’s not all that long ago (at least I like to think so…) that I sat in a newsroom in my journalistic career, anticipating hard-copy press releases arriving on my desk in time-honoured fashion, ready to be inputted or tweaked to aid the day’s news agenda.
Back then, we’d receive all kinds of style, length, and subject matter, before deciding whether they’d make little more than a NIB (that’s news-in-brief to the non reporters among you), a weighty headline…or they’d meet their death on a physical spike in the newsroom without ever greeting our readers’ attention.
Today, when I find myself meeting clients for the first time, the curious marketeers or inhouse PR’s will often ask me my views on whether that traditional press release concept has well and truly had its day.
I’ve heard all of these, and more besides.
The truth is, yes, of course the nature of the newsroom has changed enormously.
It’s absolutely correct that a journalist is now scouring your corporate twitter feed or facebook page, or stalking employee’s Linkedin pages if needs be.
They’ll be keeping a watch on blogs and newsfeeds featured on your website, and seeing the latest product video you’ve posted to the company youtube account.
So do they want you to stop sending press releases?
In general, no!
It’s a bit like asking if you think your Mum should stop sending you a birthday card now that she has the ability to text you every couple of seconds anyway.
You’d still want something physical. There are different methods to convey the same sentiment, but taking one away isn’t always the answer.
So the real question isn’t so much ‘is the press release dead / pointless / a waste of time?’, but more, how do I better ensure that a press release remains an effective tool in communicating with the media?
Here are a few tips on making the best of your press release efforts, in an age when news digestion comes from so many arenas and in so many formats….
Start with the compelling stuff first to draw the person in. The journalist doesn’t want to hear the long build-up first – more the headline facts and stats that will make it a relevant story to run
Remember that today’s journalist is having to do more in their day job, with less of a team around them than in days gone by. Time starvation means they appreciate you providing EVERYTHING clearly. Dates, names, places and contact details are critical.
Just as you’ve come to realise that a picture is what gets attention on your facebook and twitter and pinterest feeds, the same is true with a release. Today’s journalist wants a pic as much as they ever did, but even more so now that they’ll most likely be placing content online too.
If your story / activity or the purpose of your release is already being evidenced by activity online, provide the links and let the journalist see how active the social media audience is around your story or content. This will help them see the newsworthy nature of your release in the context of your community.
If you’ve identified that a journalist has a specific reason for covering your patch or your issues, liaise with them directly rather than making them feel they’re one of 1000 media-types you’ve contacted in a bulk email.
Whichever media outlet you’re pushing to, get a sense in your mind of who they write for and to. Think about how your press release is GENUINELY relevant to their target market. If it isn’t, should you really be hitting them with this story.
Sure, contact the journalist as a follow-up or for clarification, but don’t be pushy, rude or arrogant enough to be convinced your story really is better than they feel. Stay friendly and remember there’s always another story around the corner for you to engage them with.