Why Press Releases Sometimes Fail: a Journalist’s Perspective
Journalists love short pitches, but they hate “blurb” press releases. A short pitch is a condensed message, a summary of a whole, the hook, the thing that makes journalists crave for more. But if you follow the pitch with a self-serving press release that offers no real information, but just PR and marketing fluff, you don’t stand many chances to get coverage for yourself, or for any of your customers.
If your “blurb” managed to get media attention, thank your lucky stars. You may already be an interesting news item – perhaps you are one of the most famous brands in the world, and you can even get away with sheer ignorance, like the Ogilvy press release writers who deemed Pandas as primates.
But if you are a small agency, a small startup, or a small company of any kind, you need an extraordinary pitch, and an equally extraordinary press release to get the right kind of media attention.
Develop a Strict “No Fluff” Policy
No matter what anyone tells you, press releases still work. They got our clients coverage by the New York Times blogs, Time Magazine, Techcrunch, The Next Web, and so on. But they were not filled with annoying words that kill a journalist’s interest. There were no “leading,” “proud to announce” and other cliches characteristic to many amateour and DIY PRs.
A press release that doesn’t deliver information, but is, instead, filled with “we are excited to” and “we couldn’t be happier that” type of management quotes, is irrelevant, redundant, uninteresting for the reader. A press release focused on features rather than benefits is doomed as well. And fluffy boilerplates (about us section at the end of the press release) are always ignored, pretty much as press releases containing the words “award-winning agency” in the opening paragraph instead of the boilerplate don’t speak volumes of the proficiency of the agency in case.
The ideal press release is engaging, demanding reader participation without forcing it, and is focused on the reader rather than the company issuing the announcement.
Enhance Your Press Release with Relevant Rich Media
The ideal press release comes enriched with images – logos of the company, headshots of the people quoted, other relevant pictures – all in good resolution for the web, and for print, if that’s the type of publication you are targeting.
Rich media files relevant to your news announcement are always encouraged. If sending a file is not possible due to inbox restrictions, try sending a link to a SlideShare document, of send a public link to a Google Drive document with relevant information. Don’t forget to send a link to a relevant video, if you have any.
Anything that helps a journalist craft a good article, rich in content, about whatever you have to announce needs to come with your press release. You are not doing journalists any favors that you send them a press release, no matter how awesome you think you are. Even the smallest site on the Internet (and I am not discussing here spam and scraper sites) is doing you a favor by covering your news.
Writing, dear PR friends, is a matter of time. It takes effort, skill, intelligence, hours of research. If you want your press release to be picked up, customize it for every publication you sent it to. Win the respect of the journalist, prove it.
It’s Not About Relationships, It’s About Respect
There are many experts suggesting that you should “develop a relationship with the journalist first.” Many of you asked, via emails or via our Facebook page, why this doesn’t work. To put it simply, because journalists, especially the A-tier ones, are very very busy people. They are also skeptical, and do not trust that a PR can actually be “a friend.” They know their role, which, in such a relationship, unless you are a PR for NASA (and the like), is more beneficial for you. They have little or nothing to gain from a relationship with you, little or nothing to gain if they don’t publish your news. Unless you announce the cure for AIDS, there is always something more newsworthy to cover.
In other words, seasoned journalists have no interest in developing a “relationship” with you. But they appreciate it when you respect their time, when you send them highly relevant pitches and content, when you don’t overestimate the value of your news for their readers. They appreciate it when you don’t “push it”, when you don’t “shove it down their throats.”
And friends, “please” and “thank you” still go a long way.